Thursday, June 28, 2007

Social Networking and Skills for Life

There has been one positive step forward for me from recent training I've given on elearning - I can now see the application of social networking for literacy or numeracy learners. A colleague tipped me off about Ning, which is a service which allows you to set up online social networks. A participant at one of the sessions thought that social networking was the Web 2.0 tool for her Entry Level learners, because many used or were interested in MySpace, but she was anxious about the open nature of most networks.

Ning was right for her because you set up a private network for free and enrol your learners on it. They can then link with each other, post photographs, make comments and blog posts. The Ning site can act as the social centre of your course or group and you can introduce as much educational content as you wish. I can easily see the application of this with younger FE learners.

Anyone interested can check out Classroom 2.0, which is a network for educators running on Ning, mainly from the schools sector in the US inevitably. It does show the power of the platform, and you can learn a lot about the practical applications of Web 2.0 if you follow the links and discussions.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Quizzes for Number Bonds

I added a few quizzes yesterday to the Maths Quizzes and Maths Activities section to help one of my students with her number bonds. I've not done much work with Entry Level numeracy of late; this learner wants to do numeracy next year and is almost at Entry 2.

I was aware that there a couple of other good resources around: the NNS Number Facts one, which involves counting, and the Ambleside game which involves typing in answers. I may use these, but drag and drop matching still seems to hit all the right keys. By moving one number to the other you make an association of the two numbers together in the head, maybe with a picture or a sound depending on learning style. The drag and drop brings in a kinaesthetic element. It is a simple game, no typing, no counting, easy to do (and easy to create). So many of my quizzes nowadays seem to end up as drag and drop matching. Does this show good practice or a lack of imagination?

Being Dyslexic

I added a link to Being Dyslexic to the Dyslexia Information Sites page yesterday. The site has been around for a few years and gets a lot of traffic. The site was set up by a dyslexic adult, it contains a vast amount of information and has a very active forums section. I do however have some reservations.

With so much information from so many sources, it is inevitable that some of it is conflicting. As a tutor working with dyslexic learners I am looking for clear information which is reliable, both for myself and to point others towards. Because the underlying cause of dyslexia is unclear, dyslexia is defined through its symptoms and diagnosis tends to be restrained, even tentative. Yet when I am working with someone who is dyslexic I have no doubts about it. When a learner displays a symptom I think (or say) that that is the dyslexia coming through. It is quite different from working with someone who is not dyslexic, although there is also a category of people who might be dyslexic.

Unfortunately one of the first statements I came across on the forums was that dyslexia is about difficulties with reading, writing and spelling and that is the sum of it. I have read this online in several places in the past few weeks. And it is a statement which I find very untrue. I would try to define dyslexia as being something which has a number of characteristic symptoms and these include difficulties with reading, writing and spelling. Other symptoms such as short term memory difficulties, difficulties processing sounds, organisational difficulties are just as significant, if not always so apparent, and are also used in diagnosis.

The reason I feel a need to bring this up again is that dyslexia remains a controversial subject and is liable to enquiry by the media. We have seen writers such as Julie Birchill and Peter Hutchins cause backlash and outrage in recent weeks, as elements of the media seek to undermine the legal right to recognition and support. What we need is clarity and discretion.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Because Pageflakes has become so much part of my online life in the past six months, I've been looking for ways to share it. So I have made a sample page with some Skills for Life links and feeds on it and posted it here. It is very easy to sign up to and set up your own home page. I've quickly found I need a page at work, a page at home, etc. Luckily it's very easy to add new pages. I believe this page will get updated as I add things to it.

The Pageflakes team are also touting the collaborative side of pages. This means that a teacher can share a page with learners and have everybody accessing and selected learners, or all, making changes. It could therefore become a useful means of coordinating a set of blogs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Mental Maths Quizzes

The purpose of more mental maths quizzes (on the Maths Quizzes page) came about from the chilling understanding that my L2 numeracy students had forgotten the techniques they had learned to do 4 Basic Rules calculations. Some might say that it would not have made any difference if they had forgotten their tables and their written methods. However my learners are adamant that they cannot remember tables. Some of them have learned at least to recognise some tables over the course of this year. But the tricks and techniques have contributed more to confidence and, I believe, more to mathematical understanding. I have concentrated more on easier tasks this time.