Monday, November 27, 2006

Maths Quizzes - New Additions

I added a new Maths quiz on Currency Conversion to the site at the end of last week. There is a wealth of activities for maths out there. I have come across many at several sites in the last couple of months and have added some of their goodies to Activities Maths. They are mostly Flash-based, look good and work well. There are many more useful activities around for numeracy than for literacy. Some of the reasons for this include: schools activities are often created in a neutral way which will appeal to adults, the schools curriculum is much closer to the adult curriculum for numeracy than for literacy, and the issues are more similar; activities are often created to work on interactive whiteboards and so look good and simple on the screen; many literacy activities I've come across are from an EFL background or a University Study Skills background - there are useful activities in the NLN materials (needs registration - look under Family Care etc), but I cannot link these.

However I still find it useful to write Hot Potatoes quizzes for numeracy. I was brought up in the old-fashioned basic skills way where it was an ideal to bring in something individual for your learners each session. A Hot Potatoes quiz is generally only a worksheet online with online rather than verbal feedback, but it feels completely different for both tutor and learner; the learner feels more involved while the tutor can be more neutral, not having to correct it. Drag and drop can add quite a lot extra, but I've not been able to persuade the Hot Potatoes team of this. For this week's quiz on Currency Conversion I had something particular in mind as well as currency conversion, which was multiplying by halves, 6 x 2.5, etc. Things like this rarely crop up in generic flash activities which look at one element only, and are not often concerned to teach things which people find difficult, the core task of a Skills for Life tutor.

I work with a number of learners moving from E3 numeracy to Level 2 numeracy, and there are always issues with fractions. I know that any worksheets or quizzes I write on this topic will always be useful for next year's learners.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I was interested to see in the new issue of Reflect from NRDC, under the heading Effective Practice:
Our analysis pointed to four guiding principles for ILT in a Skills for Life context:
1. Foster learner autonomy.
2. Enhance peer collaboration.
3. Plan the construction of artefacts.
4. Aim for technological diversity.

We also identified two strategies that do not appear to work:
1. Telling learners how to do the task rather than listen, discuss, prompt and extend.
2. Tutors using PowerPoint.
Although the research was done 2 years ago, and activities observed were things such as webquests and mindmaps (Web 1.0), the conclusions (autonomy, collaboration, doing) are more Web 2.0. A report and practitioner guide will follow. I hope the guide will include Web 2.0 ideas: blogs, forums, etc., as they should enable those guiding principles. It will be interesting to read the research which led to these conclusions.

There was also a review about using Wikipedia, with some ideas and starting links. It might also be useful to think of Simple Wikipedia, maybe to use in tandem. This has the benefit of using easy English. It might be easier also for groups to edit or add pages. Wikis are also also Web 2.0, the web as a place where people are writing information as well as reading it.

I always enjoy reading Reflect. This is Issue 6, available only in pdf at the moment. Earlier issues in html are here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


My head is full of ideas about elearning at the moment. The growth of the internet gets faster and faster as seers have always predicted. I got into this by looking at lots of the sites which are really blogs, such as Jane Knight's Jane's Link of the Day, Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed and Tony Karrer's eLearning Technology.

Will writes an education blog and most of his ideas and enthusiasms are practical and classroom related. Jane and Tony both come from a business perspective. Jane regularly has items of interest in her daily pick - I enjoyed Cappuccino U last week for instance. Hers is a good starting point. Tony has a very clear way of writing his blog, simple but inspiring.

I was very taken with the idea from Will, picked up on (here) that teachers must be users. I have widened the range of Web 2, collaborative, things I have been doing on the web, because this is where a big part of the future of elearning must be. As well as blogging, I have been using Moodle, to which my college is migrating from Blackboard, a great step forward if teachers can grasp the opportunities for collaborative learning it offers. I have been using RSS feeds, and would like to add one to the What's New page. I have been playing with and browsing Utube, Myspace and Flickr.

Some of this must get reflected in posted links. I am trying to rejig the ILT page but haven't found the formula yet.

I am finding it hard to punctuate elearning properly: it could be e-learning, elearning, eLearning, Elearning and others.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Additions - Spelling

I have added a page which links some of the Spelling Quizzes to other resources, mainly pdf word lists at the moment. This reflects the way I have been teaching spelling over the past few years, both with groups and with one to one support. I use a word list to look at particular rules or patterns, have the learners write sentences using the words and use the quizzes to reinforce the learning at the end. Normally I'd do one rule a week and have tried to indicate how I would organize this with the numbers down the left. Some learners will go more slowly. I'd often back it up with individual look/cover/say programmes. You can compare this with the LEAP programme in Jenny Lee's "Making the Curriculum Work for Learners with Dyslexia", published by the Basic Skills Agency, details here. I came across this more recently. There are also references to LEAP deep in the DFES Framework for Understanding Dyslexia.

I have also posted an L2 spelling quiz, which is longer and gives more feed-back than usual. This was designed as a task sheet with oral feedback for a particular group of Level 2 candidates, doing the test with minimum of input. I have added the feedback to the quiz, but am unsure how this will go down with a range of learners aiming at the Level 2 end tests.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Recent Additions

I have enjoyed finding useful resources on public Scottish sites recently. Two good examples are a store of worksheets and website links on Adult Literacies Online which is a little like the resources part of Talent. Sites like these are not necessarily easy to find what you are looking for, as either you go through sequentially - and the Scottish site is already up to 156 items since June - or you search which can be difficult if you don't know what you are looking for. Easy to organise from the point of view of website design though. On Talent you can search by curriculum reference.

The Learning and Teaching Scotland Core Skills site has some useful numeracy activities. I particularly liked 10% and similar which would be good for one to one, or self-study, or on a whiteboard. I found it difficult to align these activities with English and Welsh Curriculum or Key Skills levels and references. I understand that Scottish tutors have difficulty with our references, as in this guide (pdf: page 6) from CLAN. I have tried to avoid classifying resources on Activities English and Activities Maths completely by curriculum reference, but as the number of links grows it gets harder to find what you are looking for.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

First Blog

There are not a lot of blogs around in Skills for Life at the moment. The first I came across was Keith Burnett's Bodmas Blog for maths teaching (not really numeracy), and then a small raft in Scotland, including Clan Gathering and Blogging for Numeracy Students, aimed at groups of learners.

For this blog I am really thinking about things I put on the Skills for Life website, and the ways I use these resources and other elearning techniques.