Category Archives: Technology

‘Village’ People…

(…or Consciously Creating Community)

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I grew up in a city in the 1960s. A network of terraced houses built in the 1800s to accommodate the local docks’ workers. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived a few streets or a short bus ride away. Front doors were frequently left unlocked. There was a butcher’s at the end of the street, a bakery on the corner of the next. My great aunt and uncle owned the local grocery (one of the few family members who were self-employed). We had a Post Office, a pharmacy (‘chemist’s’), a fish’n’chip shop, a cafe, a newsagent’s, a sweet shop and one of those small shops that defies categorisation, selling an odd assortment of bric-a-brac, toys, ironmongery, and textiles. If it had been 19th century USA it would probably have been labelled the ‘General Store’. There was even a small ‘dairy’ – no cows, just a distribution point for the local milkman to collect full milk bottles and deposit the ‘empties’.  All this within five minutes walk of my house. It was a ‘village’ within a city. Half a mile away there was another ‘village’ replicating the variety of shops.

As a toddler, shopping with my mother or grandmother could be interminable. Progress from shop to shop could be slow, as neighbours, acquaintances, and family members randomly met and exchanged news and gossip. Shopping for a neighbour or family member was not unusual. If it rained while you were out shopping, a neighbour would take your washing off the line and put it inside your back door.

Many of my grandparents’ generation lacked formal education, having left school at 14 in order to assist or solely support their families. They valued education and its potential rewards, encouraging their children to aspire to careers beyond the skilled or unskilled manual labour of the docks.

Consequently, family members of my parents’ generation gained a few academic or specialised qualifications. Changing their ‘collar’ colour from blue to white. With greater earning capacity and a wider choice of job opportunities, they left the ‘village’ and began to populate suburbia or more distant population centres. Some emigrated to new continents.

The family homes which had seemed like a busy network of bee-hives, with their constant to-ing and fro-ing between them, became quiet except for ‘celebration’ days or holidays. The telephone became the substitute for face-to-face interaction.

I am a child of the ‘diaspora’. My first cousins are scattered around the globe. The nearest member of my family lives 25 miles away.

The ‘village’ had its negatives as well as its positives. Those that didn’t conform could be shunned, bullied and belittled. They were not necessarily undermining the community, they were often expressing their individuality. You could be gossiped about for wearing clothes that were ‘too loud’ or having ‘ideas above your station’. For some, leaving the ‘village’ was  a liberating experience, essential for their personal growth and well-being. Be assured, I am not idealising. The ‘village’ had its fair share of ‘ne’er-do-wells’, rogues and a criminal element. In addition, maintaining a degree of privacy could be viewed as suspiciously secretive or exclusive.

What’s my point? Where am I going with this?

OK. In the ‘village’, the process of building and maintaining community required a minimum of effort. You could avoid it if you really tried but otherwise it just ‘happened’. The historical/geographical context governed the degree of interaction. Families and neighbours facing similar ‘struggles’ could and would empathise with each other. They would offer support, share resources and seek solutions. If you destroyed trust, the repercussions could last a lifetime (or two)!

In the strive for individualism and independence, have we lost that real sense of interdependence and kinship? How much would you really sacrifice for a suburban neighbour or co-worker who may be there one moment and gone the next? As we have become more ‘mobile’, both work and personal relationships may have a greater sense of ‘impermanence’. Also, if someone destroys trust, they may not have to live with the consequences for too long.

Building classroom communities requires deliberate and sustained effort. The values, attitudes, skills and knowledge to build a healthy community have to be internalised by learners who may not have had the experience of growing up in a ‘village’. The ethos and climate of classrooms cannot be solely dependent on the charisma, mood swings or dictats of the teacher/educator. At the other extreme, empowering learners does not mean allowing ‘jungle law’ to develop.

In a world seemingly driven by mobility and material acquisition, there is an even greater need to acquire ‘values’ which value people and embrace diversity; which value skills needed to develop emotional intelligence and collaboration;  and values which build and maintain community.

While I abhor the abuse of social network media, from a personal point of view, the recent advances in this type of technology has enabled my family ‘diaspora’ to begin a process of reconnection and the rekindling of a sense of kinship. A virtual ‘village’.

We are social animals. We are interdependent. And, while we pursue political or educational policies which promote hierarchy and the selfish individualism of a dog-eat-dog society, we merely serve to widen divisions and ignore our collective responsibility for the well-being of all.

Getting the balance right means that we not only provide opportunity for and tolerance of a diversity of individual aspirations and beliefs but also a sense of responsibility for and contribution to the community, which is dynamic and ever-changing. This is real lifelong learning. And, when individuals feel secure and valued, they develop greater motivation and confidence to take risks and explore their potential.

 

For more thoughts on building and maintaining community see  our previous post ‘All hours, all weathers.’

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Filed under Coaching, Community Learning, Designing for Learning, Early Years, Education, Experiential Learning, Explore, Learners, Learning, Networking, Potential, Practitioners, Primary, Problem-Based Learning, Quality Learning, Reflective Learning, Secondary, Single Steps Learning, Teaching, Technology, Values

Status Update: ‘What’s on your mind?’

Česky: Logo Facebooku English: Facebook logo E...

I once heard the blues guitarist Big Bill Broonzy talking on the radio about songwriting. “You can write a song about anything…for instance, a pocket knife. It can be used to cut food, to carve a piece of wood…or to kill a man!” 

No, this is not a blog about songwriting, the blues or pocket-knives. It is about social media. Like the knife, social media is a tool. Like the knife, it is not inherently ‘good or evil’ – that depends upon the intentionality of the ‘user’.

I have been a user of social media ever since I got my first online account in 1998. IMs, Chat rooms, icq, message boards, MySpace, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, MSN Messenger, Bebo, and ‘blogging’.

I have seen the power of the use, abuse, misuse and creativity of social media. Today, however, my attention has been caught by two articles – one via  Twitter and the other via the WordPress blog site. Both articles concern the recent practice of employers asking prospective employees for their Facebook login details.  

Google 的貼牌冰箱(Google refrigerator)

(Photo credit: Aray Chen)

So what is your first reaction to that statement? Mine was: ‘They can’t do that…that’s an invasion of privacy! It’s like someone asking to visit your house. Your personal lifestyle choices may have no relevance to how well you can do a job.’ However, on reflection…

Some people choose not to use (or are still unaware) of any privacy settings on Facebook. They are currently quite happy to bare their souls (and many other things) to anyone who wishes to view their page – the roller-coaster of their emotional states, public bickering, gross attention-seeking, and many, many photos of whatever constitutes ‘having a good time’ with their specific social group. Part of me finds the ‘openness’ refreshing. Another part despairs and worries.

Free twitter badge

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our training, we talk about the value of sharing and reflecting on experiences. However, the depth to which you share will depend upon the trust that has been established between individuals in a group. Why? Because we have learned from bitter experience that by being completely ‘open’, you also make yourself vulnerable to manipulation, prejudice and betrayal by the unscrupulous. We’ve all been there. Yes?

If I look at my personal Facebook page, I have nothing to hide. However, I do have a life and loved ones that I wish to protect. There is and always has been a parasitic strata of society who actually work very hard at ‘theft’ be it physical or virtual. They are creative, opportunistic and have no conscience. My  great fear is that there is a generation of social media users who may never recover from their blissful ignorance or naiveté. 

Back to employment…if you put it out there for all to see…that is your choice and you bear the consequences – positive or negative. You are Google-able… 

However, if you have chosen privacy settings…Hmmm

‘Application and interview’ is an imperfect process. Candidates may be ‘economical with the truth’, use manipulative language and personal charisma to improve their chances at selection. There are even books and online coaching advice about how to do this.

An employer who aspires to a certain set of values (such as sexual equality and multi-ethnicity) wants to know that, in the current world of instant mass communication, their reputation is not going to be besmirched (love that word!). They do not want to discover that the charismatic and knowledgeable flatterer, who said the right things at the interview, and is also highly qualified, turns out to be a misogynistic bigot with a penchant for ‘mooning’...and who had impeccable references (because the previous employer couldn’t wait to get rid of them…so they also also lied!). This happens!!!

The logo of the blogging software WordPress. D...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some questions to ponder…

Is it justifiable for an employer to invade personal privacy in order to protect its future reputation, in the same way I would want to protect my own?

…or, are we already creating a culture of social media savvy candidates who merely create multiple online personas – selecting which one they will reveal to their prospective employers?

Conversely, even if I have nothing to hide, why should I give access to my personal life to someone with whom I have not established a minimum level of trust – who may misuse information that is revealed.

We are aware that many (but thankfully not all!) educators are reluctant to comment on our own FB page, just in case their opinions, however valid and well-articulated, get them into ‘hot water’ with their setting/school/local authority. Unlike the TES forum threads, in which some extreme views are voiced but protected by anonymous usernames, we have ‘real’ people with ‘real’ names. We understand and accept your reluctance. 🙂

Despite the exponential advance in human technologies, the same human issues still remain. The instinct to survive / the instinct to protect oneself. When survival and protection are achieved ‘by any means necessary’, human values such as ‘trust’ are often a casualty, especially in times of economic hardship. If prospective employees will say/do anything to get a job, isn’t it reasonable to expect employers to say/do anything to protect themselves against employing the ‘wrong’ person? And, if employers use your personal information unscrupulously, isn’t it right that you should be able to protect yourself against disclosure?

Our learning for today… 

Why not take some time to reflect on your own social media pages. Check your own privacy settings or get someone to help you customise them – particularly if the format of the site has changed recently.  We make no judgements about content or lifestyle choices but think about what you are comfortable sharing and who can or might access your information now and in the future. Check who has ‘tagged’ you in any photographs and ‘untag’ them if you are not comfortable with them appearing on your pages. If you think that they could be potentially embarrassing ask for them to be removed – especially if they will come up in a Google search- a real friend will do this for you! Do a Google search on yourself and see what results you get – you may be surprised!

As for me, it’s time to fix the flux-capacitor and get back to the future. What will be the form and impact of social media in another 10 years…now that would be telling!

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Filed under Business, Education, Professional Development, Risk, Technology, Values

Google: Getting Welsh Business Online

On opening an email from the Welsh Government last week, we noticed an invite to the Google Launch Event: Getting Welsh Business Online. Not being ones to miss out on an opportunity, we immediately signed up!

Tuesday 7th March arrived. At some point, we did wonder what the event would entail? How should we dress? Who would be there? What was the purpose? How would it be organised?

As we walked towards the Coal Exchange, Cardiff Bay, we smiled at the ‘Gingham Bunting’ and the signs pointing us in the right direction. Our first clue that the launch was going to be a bigger event than we first anticipated!

Conference badges in alphabetical order gave another clue. Followed by complimentary bottles of ‘juice’ – refreshing,  surprisingly tasty and supplied by Lovely Drinks of North SomersetRow upon row of seats in the main arena – each with a Google ‘goodie’ bag. Twitter users immediately began the ‘goodie’ bag banter. Why were some red and some blue? Did they contain different items? Some excitedly mentioned the free information books…others the sweets…and one ‘loving the lip balm’!

Google 'Goodie' Bags

A general buzz of excitement could be felt in the room. 

As the event was about to kick off, someone sitting directly behind us whispered,

“If I can learn one new thing, it will be worth it…”

And then Sian Lloyd, who was hosting the event, took to the stage… “Noswaith dda a croeso…”. 

It really wasn’t until this point that we understood what this was all about. Google had chosen Wales to launch their new ‘Getting British Business Online’ initiative. Along with the Welsh Assembly and Partners, Google will offer a programme of support to boost the online digital presence of Welsh business. 

Edwina Hartand Sian Lloyd

Edwina Hart, Business and Enterprise Minister, spoke about the digital skills needed for tomorrow’s market, the target to ensure faster broadband access across Wales by 2015, recognition of problem-solving skills and preparing young people for work in a technological age. 

Dan Cobley, MD, Google UK and Ireland, arrived on stage amidst polite applause. He expressed his delight at being in Cardiff and delivering the keynote speech.

  “We live in exponential times.”

Dan Cobley highlighted success stories in Welsh business and then attempted to engage the audience by testing their knowledge of Welsh success in history. A mixed response at this point. The audience yet to warm up and participate. Only a few responded. (Although alternative reasoning could point to the fact that  the audience lacked ‘general Welsh knowledge’!).

Dan Cobley, MD, Google UK and Ireland

“Let’s pick a word like sex…”

The demonstration of ‘Google Insights for Search‘ began with an initial intake of breath and a few nervous glances as Dan Cobley uttered the phrase, “Let’s pick a word like sex…”

He went on to show the ‘search trend’ for ‘sex’ on a global basis over the past 5-10 years. Audience participation then surged as he asked the question, “So, what if we put chocolate in as a term? Would chocolate be higher or lower than sex in Wales?”

Immediate laughter and the word ‘chocolate’ reverberated around the venue – although mainly from female voices noted Dan Cobley!

The audience finally warmed to Dan Cobley at the mention of ‘Rugby’ – especially when he commented that the Google Insights trend for the UK maybe suggested why Wales did so well in the Six Nations. 

“Chocolate…higher or lower than sex in Wales?”

On a more serious note, Dan Cobley spoke about the need to understand data and the link between understanding what the market ‘search terms’ really were so that these can be utilised within your own websites to optimise the performance and presence of your business.

This sparked an interest in us – what would the search trend for ‘education’ look like in the last 10 years?

Search Term: Education in Wales

Surprised?

I’m not sure if we were surprised, shocked, saddened or just resigned to reality. It is something we will definitely think about from multiple perspectives. 

Returning to Dan Cobley and the ‘facts’ he presented:

  • Businesses which embrace the digital online economy experience 4-8 times faster growth. These SMEs bring in custom from around the world and export their products globally – and they can do it without the support of big I.T. departments.

  • Everyone today is a broadcaster – 60 hours of YouTube footage is uploaded every minute.

  • Everyone is connected – 845 million people on facebook, 91% of 16-24 yr olds are active on social media.

  • Half of all new internet connections are now from mobile devices. In 2011 the sale of smartphones overtook the sale of PCs.

  • Make your website ‘mobile friendly’ – 79% of people use a smartphone during shopping.

  • ‘Mobile’ optimisation is a game changer for local businesses. 81% use a smartphone to look for local information, 31% make a purchase after looking.

  • 25% of all search queries come from mobile devices.

  • Take the first step and create an online presence…or improve what you already have

  • Become ‘greater with data’ – use tools like ‘Google Insights for Search

  • ‘Digital Basics’ – use images, tell people why you are different, use endorsements from clients, use a map plugin to publicise your location.

  • Make your business have a ‘multi-channel and multi-media’ presence

  • ‘Leap and learn’ – engage in the process. Try something out, analyse it, refine it.

Getting Welsh Business Online

 Local Salon Owner

Guy Christian, a local salon owner, joined Dan Cobley on stage to explain how an online presence has contributed to the success of his business. It was great to hear someone talk realistically about their experience – both the pitfalls and the success. Recognising the need to take a risk and learn from mistakes. 70% of new clients to the salon now come via the internet and they market their business exclusively online.

“Business only survived because of our web presence”

Sian Lloyd returned to the stage to bring the formal part of the event to a close. The reading aloud of ‘tweets’ was met with laughter – particularly the mention of Dan Cobley’s great hair and inspiring speech. The ‘roving microphone’ began moving around the audience – question time with Dan Cobley and Robert Lloyd Griffiths (Institute of Directors).

And the final surprise… 

As the informal networking began, delicious canapes were distributed by friendly staff. The bar opened…and, much to my surprise, I was given a complimentary glass of sauvignon blanc! How civilised. Maybe my surprise is due to a career in education – the only complimentary thing you are likely to receive is a pencil (and that’s if you are lucky!). 🙂 

Coal Exchange, Cardiff Bay

So – it was ‘goodbye’ to the Coal Exchange. A great evening. A great event.

And ‘hello’ to Google Juice Bar. But that’s another story…

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Filed under Business, Learning, Networking, Potential, Professional Development, Single Steps Learning, Teaching, Technology

Great Little App…

Interesting videos on innovation, education, business, science and technology, social affairs, arts, humanities etc. But our absolute favourite is the RSA Animate series…

App is available for both iphone and android – more information if you follow this link…

http://www.thersa.org/iphone 

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Filed under Education, Embedded CPD, Teaching, Technology

Easy to use website statistics…

We have been searching for a while for an easy way to track our website statistics. Especially when gently told by our Apple Store tutors that a visible counter on a webpage is very ’90’s’! (It made me wonder if I was beginning to lose my place in what I considered the ‘younger generation’!!). During some research I came across this website –www.statcounter.com – creating an account is completely free and very easy to set up. I would definitely recommend it.

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New favourite place to hang out…

Actually - this one is in NYC! But we have been there too!

It’s the Apple Store, St. David’s Centre, Cardiff! More CPD! More fun! More creativity! More help from Jason and Jack – our friendly One-to-One tutors! Thank you!!!! (A Starbucks flat white is always good for concentration too – and maybe hyperactivity!)

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A place you can trust…

Exceptional service…professional…friendly…on-time…good quality…

If you need printing or copying in or around Bridgend, South Wales, we recommend seeing Vic at Bridgend Copy Shop – www.bridgendcopyshop.com  

 

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Losing yourself in a shop that feels like home…

Our own CPD is important to us and this year we are developing our ICT capacity. The Apple Store, Cardiff is our chosen place! Their One-to-One tuition and Personal Projects Workshops are really beneficial. Time passes in a ridiculously quick way as we explore the many creative uses of our Macbooks! 

(And yes, it was Andrew’s BIG birthday and of course I had to make sure we celebrated there!)

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