Reflections of a Learning Journey and the Connections made along the way

Well it is the first day of spring.  What joy that brings me.  It means the end of another winter.  But it is also the first day of Adult Learners Week.    

Isn’t it funny how things sometimes converge and you have that “Aha” moment. I am leaving my current work role at the end of this year and plan to focus on my writing.  I am one third of the way through my first manuscript which is based on a story from my family’s past. And of course I have my blogs.  But in my work role I have also written many learning programs and have done a lot of business writing.  

I have this dream to be able to make a small income from my writing and have been pondering how I can do that.  Which of all of these types of writing should I focus on? So I attended a webinar about just that; Making money from writing.  And the main message was to find your passion.  Write about what you are passionate about.  Well that’s easy – family history.  But then I had a sudden thought as I pondered all the research and learning I do for family history.  I am also a passionate self-directed, lifelong learner.  I have actually written a lot of posts about my learning over the years.  There is this one here, and one of my favourites here

In my current role in Adult Education I have always found it frustrating that so many people do not really seem  interested in continuing their learning as they move through life, apart from the incidental learning that we all do day to day.  Can I somehow spread the message about the value of lifelong learning?  And show people how to become self-directed learners.  Everyone can learn.  Our brains are wired to learn.  All it takes is the right ingredients and sometimes these need to be spelt out. I wrote a post along these lines sometime ago. And in our current everchanging times it is becoming more important than ever to be able to reskill and change directions to fit into new and emerging roles.

So anyway, back to Adult Learners Week, where we began.  My advice is to find some time this week to learn something new. It’s easy you know.  Just google something that interests you and actually take more than two minutes (our usual attention span these days) to watch a Ted Talk or read an article.  Or go to the Adult Learners Week website and see what’s on offer

And let’s hope the promise of warm weather brings some relief to the current difficult situation we Victorians find ourselves in.

How Lucky

I have posted before about how much I love where I live. But now I really appreciate it even more. How lucky are we to live in Australia, to live in regional Victoria, where during this horrific pandemic we can go for a walk on our beautiful Lake Mulwala foreshore and not expect to encounter 10,000 other individuals just trying to do the same thing; which was the scene on a warm day at Bondi Beach in the early days of the pandemic.  

Sunrise over Lake Mulwala

This to me feels like the lowest point; when 3000 people have to endure lockdown in inner city public housing towers.  Imagine living in a small apartment on one of the upper floors with a young family and with no warning, being told you cannot leave your apartment for at least five days!  You’ve done nothing wrong but you are basically imprisoned.  And yet there is no other option.  We need this lockdown to protect so many other vulnerable people.

One ray of light was when I went to the fundraising page set up by the Victorian Trades Union Council to make a donation to help those in hard lockdown.  I was unable to make the donation  because the total had been reached within a matter of hours.  A wonderful display of what can be achieved when we work together.  And also a demonstration that we do care about each other.  

Personally, Covid-19 has had a minimal effect on my life.  I am a homebody so I am more than happy to be working from home and really not going anywhere.  We were due to go to Queensland for a holiday in 12 days time but of course we are no longer able to do that. But I just feel guilty about the fact that I am sad about that because there are so many other people worse off.  People without an income, wondering if they will ever be able to get back to the occupations that they love.  People locked up in inner suburban towers.  And that is just in our lucky country. The rest of the world is faring much worse.   There are still 10s of 1000’s of cases being confirmed daily.  Some countries are having to reinforce restrictions.  

I love where I live.  

Recently I have started getting a bit more serious about writing. One day I will write a book.. Repeat after me….. One day I will write a book…

I have always been interested in writing my Family History but when I enrolled in the Diploma of Family History at UTAS it awakened in me a real interest in all types of writing. I wrote my first piece of creative writing based on an event from my families early life as selectors. I found that I could write fiction which was a strange revelation.

So today I have submitted my last assessment. I have finished the Diploma. I thought I would be a bit sad that it was over. It has been such a great adventure. But I am not. Now I have time to get onto the next project.

I have started seriously exploring other forms of writing apart from historical non-fiction. I am doing a course with the Australian Writer’s Centre (awesome by the way), listening to podcast interviews with writers, and reading “The Writing Book” by Kate Grenville.

So what have I learnt so far:

  • That to be a writer you just need to write
  • Reading a lot is really important
  • The first draft is just that, so just write – get it done without rereading or editing
  • My story is unique, so because of this I can start with ideas that I have taken from my reading. No two stories will ever be the same.

Well, I have now completed weeks 2 and 3 of the Learn Moodle course. What a great course. It is very interactive with lots of engaging activities and an opportunity to explore the Learn Moodle Mobile app.

As part of the course we have to create our own practice course in Moodle. I have chosen the topic of Family History Basics because I would love to one day share my knowledge of this topic. I also write a Genealogy blog where I share some of the family stories I have written.

One of my favourite activities in the Learn Moodle course is the workshop activity. This was new to me – a function I haven’t used before. You make your own submission to the workshop and then peers assess each other. I had to assess 4 other students in the course. I actually found it a bit confronting as a couple of them hadn’t really followed the instructions and I had to assess accordingly. One of the students wrote in Spanish so I had to translate before I could assess!

As usual it is good to reflect on learning – it really helps to consolidate the learning and see new angles.

Learn Moodle

What Luck! I was recently engaged to do some Moodle training for some school teachers who are beginner Moodlers.  So how fortuitous it was that as I was doing some research I came across learn.moodle.net  just as a new four week course was commencing.

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Now, I have been using Moodle for around 8 years so whilst I know there are so many features I have not used, I thought I had the basics. How wrong I was.  This course is for beginners and yet there are so many things I do not know.

In the first week the tasks included to Introduce ourselves and request a practice course. Pretty straight forward. I really liked the the immediate suggestion to do some reflecting – hence this blog post. However I did find watching so many videos a bit tedious. I guess that was because most of the content was known to me, even though there was a gem of new information in most of them. One other thing that I found a bit annoying was that many people who were more advanced moodlers added very involved questions in the forum posts. This was specifically discouraged in the first tutorial, in order that the course be welcoming and not daunting for those it was really meant for – real beginners.

devicesConsider the question: “If I allow my students to have devices in the classroom, how can I stop them wasting time on social media?

Now consider the similar question: How do I stop my student (who I have told to put their device away) from staring into space and not taking in anything I say?”

Same answer to both questions, I reckon.  Engage them!

I was absolutely delighted to watch this weeks episode of Australian Story featuring young high school teacher Eddie Woo.  The best thing he said IMO was “take out your devices”.  But he also has his own “Woo Tube” channel where he posts recordings of all his sessions!  These are viewed by maths students from all around the world!

OK, so when you have taken that very brave step of saying “Take out your devices” how do you stop them going straight to Facebook.

The answer could be to immediately engage them in some activity which makes use of their beloved devices – “take out your devices and do………….”

There are any number of great apps which can be really engaging and useful.  Lets take some examples that relate to the courses we deliver at our RTO, Early Childhood Education and Care and Individual Support

  1. Note-taking Apps e.g. Evernote – save all your notes in one place, add pictures, audio, drawings etc.
  2. Bookmarking Apps e.g. Pocket – save a link to read later
  3. Digital Children’s book Apps – e.g. Book Creator
  4. Childcare Observation Apps – e.g. Keptme
  5. Anatomy Apps e.g. Complete Anatomy
  6. Medical Terminology and Abbreviation Apps
  7. Heart-rate Apps

Other Activities to get your students to do on their devices:

  1. Join a peak body and subscribe to newsletters
  2. Look up the meaning of an unfamiliar word
  3. Google search a particular topic
  4.  Bookmark a YouTube video or TED talk to watch for homework
  5. Engage with other students or educators on Facebook or LinkedIn
  6. Create podcasts and videos
  7. Reflective blogging

And so much more………..

My Workplace

It’s a funny thing, I decided not to start on my blog post for this week immediately I received the #Edublogsclub prompt email and that slight delay has given me an interesting perspective to start from.

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Someone asked me yesterday, “Don’t you get lonely working in this building all by yourself?” I wish! Sometimes lonely or bored would be great! Yes, sometimes I am in the building completely on my own and with the door locked but they are certainly not “lonely” times.  They are fantastic productive times when there are no distractions and I can actually get some work done.  I absolutely love those precious solitary moments at work.

But mostly, my workplace is shared with my colleague and any number of students and their Tutors.  And then there is the other building where the rest of our wonderful staff carry out their duties so I spend time there as well.

I am the Executive Officer of a Neighbourhood House and a Registered Training Organisation. My day at the office is so diverse.  Every day is different.  But easily the best thing about my work is when I have a past student come up to me in the street and say “I got a job and I love it”.  Those are the rewarding moments.

But like every workplace, I suppose, there are times of barely organised chaos.  How do I stay organised through all the chaos and distractions?  I have a number of really useful digital tools to help keep me on track, including my journal, my google apps but the most important of all is my Toodledo task list.  This to-do list is synced to all my devices and works on the principles of “Getting Things Done” which I wrote about in a post here.  The work of David Allen has been inspirational to me and really helps me to stay organised.

Wow, I just checked my first blog post and realised I started blogging in 2010 so I have been at it longer tthe-edubloggerhan I thought.  But I am not a frequent blogger, so that is the main reason why I took up the challenge to post a weekly blog as part of the #EdublogsClub with The Edublogger.

Why do I blog?  I wrote a post on that some time ago here.  I still struggle with that mentality that a post must be perfect before I release it to the world.  So if I could give blogging newcomers one piece of advice it would be to not expect to be perfect and write for yourself.  If someone else is in interested in reading then that is great but I don’t make that my priority.  For me, blogging is about having a place to reflect and store memories.

I also write a number of other blogs for particular projects that I work on from time to time.

I blog on a wide variety of topics including travel and holidays, lifelong learning, wellbeing and many others including whatever takes my fancy at the time.

Blogs I follow are also quite varied.  One of my colleagues writes Hospitalitytrainermum which is quite lighthearted.  And I also enjoy reading Rustic Learning Ramblings by Kate Pinner and Armbandits Weblog by Nerida Gill.

So let’s see how I go with my goal to post weekly!  A great challenge.

I have just read a great blog post at Mindset Works about teaching both over-achieving and under-achieving learners.  What is the difference?  One would probably think that the over achievers would by definition have a growth mindset.  But apparently that is not necessarily the case.  They might just want to work hard and do what is required to achieve their  goals.  But really they don’t have a Growth Mindset.

So what is a Growth Mindset?  To be truly effective as learners we need to believe we have the capacity to “get smarter”.  We need to believe that we can grow in intelligence.  Yet so many learners don’t.

growth-mindset

(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Sylvia Duckworth

I am more interested in under achievers as they are more often our demographic in adult community education.  Many of our learners have not had good experiences at school and have often gone through school thinking  and being told they are stupid.  How do we convince them that they do have the capacity to learn and to grow their intelligence.

We need to be able to teach them how to learn.  We can begin by talking about how the brain works and some strategies like practice and getting enough sleep that really help our brain to learn more effectively.  Then we can talk about study skills.  We need to teach learning strategies as well as content.

 

We are commencing research for our latest project “Making the Most of Emerging Technologies”  This project is funded by the VET Development Centre and we are very grateful for the opportunity to investigate ways to enhance our blended and online delivery using new technologies.

technology e-bookI have come across this fantastic resource which I think will become the bible for this project.  The Free Education Technology Resources e-book.