The legacy of the paralympics on education

I missed most of the Olympics as was on holiday, but I watched as much of the Paralympics as possible, and I (like many others) have been blown away with the standard and the excitement that it has brought, but what has really pleased me is the media coverage (and positive media coverage) that it has achieved. When I taught, one my main subjects was around the area of ‘disability sport’ – and I remember during the 2000 Sydney Olympics the TV coverage was something like a very superficial 30minutes each evening, showing the main sports of athletics, swimming and wheelchair basketball and sports like boccia and goalball getting next to no coverage.

12 years later and channel 4 has broadcast over 400 hours of coverage, showing all sports, all athletes, and the programme ‘The last leg‘ I thought was superb, as it highlighted that we don’t have to be nervous discussing disabled people, it doesn’t matter if we occasionally get the terminology wrong (as long as it isn’t offensive) and disabled people don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool, and treated like innocent kids all their lives.

So what impact will this have on our education system?

There is a huge opportunity for education to deliver the legacy that the games set out to create. Hopefully the physical education agenda will be addressed. There have regular media debates about the amount of PE on the curriculum, which I hope does increase, but we can also look at the attitude of PE. In the last 15 or so years there has been a move to widen sporting participation to all, which has unfortunately been translated into seriously reducing the competitive element of sport. I think there is a need for both, which the Paralympics to me has shown – many of the disabled athletes that were interviewed, echoed that competing (and winning) is what drives them and how that is an essential part of their life, and I hope a balance of meeting the needs of driven students can be met along with those that don’t like sport.

Outside of the PE agenda, there are also lessons to learn – watching the blind athletes playing football was amazing, and showed that a lack of vision does not render an individual incapable, similarly a lack of limbs is not a barrier to some amazing swims, jumps, throws and runs, and the archery competitor that used his feet to hold the bow, and his mouth to release the arrow shows the ability for some disabled individuals to find innovative ways to overcome perceived barriers. Hopefully when a disabled individual enters an educational establishment, their ability and potential isn’t prejudged by someone, that then holds them back from that point forth. The problem with the current model, is disabled students are assessed by an ‘expert’ within the organisation who comes up with a support plan identifying what adaptations are needed, and although this works for most, there are many people that end up with the wrong type or level of support, which rather than helping them, holds them back. Hopefully students, parents, carers and teachers will have the confidence to challenge these support plans if they think they need improving.

From a teaching perspective – there is an opportunity to better meet the needs of disabled learners. I have long preached the notion of inclusivity, which is rather than creating non-accessible practices and then using methods to overcome them – instead we look at what we are doing and create resources and practices that can be easily adapted (ideally by the student themselves). I know the CPD budgets are currently tight within organisations, but I think investing in CPD in this area would be a worthwhile investment, as learning inclusive techniques, will save the tutor time, will raise the standards of teaching for all learners, could reduce the learner support costs, and would help to produce a world beating education system.

One of the best training programmes for educators that would cover this, is the ITQ for accessible IT practice which I have been running for a few organisations over the last 18 months, and I think offers excellent value for money, as well as giving staff the opportunity to gain a recognised qualification.

photo (5)

The cost of running an ITQ in accessible practice

There is a new qualification that has come out recently, developed in conjunction with JISC TechDis, called the ITQ in accessible practice. It is an assessed and widely recognised City And Guilds qualification at levels 2 or 3, which I think will have a huge impact on teaching and learning, as it will help people to produce better quality resources and teaching practices for all learners – as well as those with disabilities. For people ‘studying’ this programme, the great thing is that everything in the qualification will be relevant to their work, and they will hopefully be able to use their working practice to generate the relevant evidence for their portfolios.

I have recently been working with a college to work out how much it would cost to deliver face to face training, and to assess such a course, and when you work it out, it actually works out very cheap per person.

Below is an example costing for a level 3 course (which is made up of 6 units), delivered to a group of 10 learners at an organisation that is itself a registered ITQ centre.

Cost of registration per person @£82 per person = £820
Cost of delivery of 6 training session @£250 per session = £1500
Cost of assessing the candidates @£440 per person = £4400
Cost of the JISC TechDis support pack (price still being negotiated but should be only a few hundred pounds)

So the total cost would be £6720 + expenses + the support pack, so even if the cost of expenses and support pack puts the total up to £7500 this works out as £750 per person – which I think would be very good value, to have someone like myself coming in to deliver 6 half day sessions, to provide online support, and to assess the candidates.

If centres are not ITQ centres, then they can still do this, but would have a slightly higher cost of registering through an other organisation. The above costing is provided as an example, as different organisations would have different needs and requirements, but it gives a ball park figure which shows that it is financially viable to run such a course in an organisation if there are a few people that want to do it, they have managerial support to be able to attend the training, and a room in which the training can be run. Some people want to do the training, but don’t want to be assessed, in which case you save a lot of money, and any sessions that are run of this nature, could be opened up to other practitioners who are not on the course.

If anyone is interested in running this qualification in their organisation and wants to discuss the options, then please feel free to contact Dave Foord – his details can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/contact.php

Using DropBox as a portfolio of evidence

I am currently working on my ITQ in accessible practice (so that I will be able to teach it). Although the qualification is not an NVQ, it does require the collection of evidence in a portfolio. Originally I was planning to use this blog, but I was concerned that some of my regular followers may not be interested in my evidence. My next thought was to set up another wordpress.com blog, which would be very easy to do, but one problem with this, is that I cannot attach an Excel spreadsheet directly to a wordpress.com blog, which would be a limiting factor as I am doing the Spreadsheets unit in the qualification.

So instead I have used DropBox, which is working very well indeed. The way that DropBox works, is you create an account on it, and you can download a little application onto your computer. This then allows me to save files to this area (which works as a folder structure, just like any other folder system on a computer). What DropBox does, is it keeps a version of the file on my computer, but also synchronises to a version on the web (in the cloud), so that I can retrieve these files from any other computer that has web access, and if someone else is another dropbox user, then I can give them access to specific items or folders, which is great, as I have given the assessor access to my evidence folder on my dropbox account. We have a single spreadsheet which as I produce evidence, I add an item to it, telling the assessor where the evidence is stored, and which criteria I think it covers. My assessor can then edit this document herself providing feedback.

So although a crude mechanism, that isn’t sophisticated, that doesn’t lend itself to natural reflective practice, in this situation it has worked very well.

Screenshot of web view of Dropbox

Screenshot of web view of Dropbox

And another nice feature is there is a free iPhone app for dropbox allowing me to view my files from my iPhone.

Using Excel to create a matching pairs activity

I am a big fan of Excel, and have discovered over the years how to use it as a very effective teaching and learning tool. In the coming weeks (and months depending on how busy I get) I plan to create a few tutorials to show how different types of activity can be created.

My first attempt is going to look at creating a simple matching pairs activity, and to do this we will learn about

  • IF statements
  • Data validation
  • Inserting a hyperlink to move from 1 sheet to another
  • Sorting a list
  • Combining contents of cells to create a sentence
  • Unlocking cells
  • Protecting sheets
  • Hiding gridlines, sheet tabs, formula bar and row + column headers

This tutorial will consist of 4 screencasts.

The first shows the end product, and the reasons behind some of the choices

or http://screenr.com/IDp

In the second screen cast we will look at how we create the sheet that the student will enter the answers into

 or http://screenr.com/dZp

The way that this resource works, is the student enters some answers, then clicks on a ‘check answers’ button which shows how many they have right. This looks really clever, and some people think I have used code to create it, but all I have done is create a second sheet in the workbook, that is laid out identically (so looks the same) which checks the answers. When the student clicks on the button to ‘check answers’ or the equivalent one to return to test, all they are doing is flicking between 2 separate sheets.

The third screencast looks at how to duplicate the entry sheet (to create the check sheet) and change it to check how many the student has got correct.

or http://screenr.com/RZp

In the 4th tutorial, we will look at the final stages of tidying up the resource and making it work neatly. We will during this process hide the rows of the table containing the answers. The key to a resource like this, is once you have created something like this once, you can then just change the data in this table and you have a new resource.

or http://screenr.com/nZp

There are a few more improvements that you could make – for example, on the check sheet, at the top of the page we could add a formula to the title, to copy it through from the ‘test’ sheet – this way if you change the title on the first sheet, it will automatically change the the heading on the second page. Also if the students don’t answer all the questions, when they check their answers they will get a ‘0’ displayed. This could easily be removed by adding another IF statement.

I hope that this has been useful, and look out for future tutorials on this topic.

Simple formatting tips in Excel, to improve quality of learning materials

People often talk about what is there favourite e-learning tool or piece of software, and if I am asked, I answer by saying “If I were to be abandoned on a desert island with 30 students, with computers but I was only allowed one piece of software, I would take Microsoft Excel”

Why – quite simply it is a very powerful tool, which when you know how to use it, becomes a very easy tool within which to create learning materials, and even though I have access to more sophisticated tools, over 50% of the learning objects that I create use Excel. A lot of people think that Excel is about tables of data, with an ugly grid behind and complicated tool bars and navigation system – but when creating learning objects, all these can be stripped out, so when the learner views the resource they won’t even realise that it is Excel.

This short screencast shows a few such formatting tips that can be applied to make a learning resource more user friendly.

or – http://screenr.com/CKp

I will be creating a series of blog post on the use of Excel over the coming weeks, so watch this space for more information.

Using Excel to Play Golf on the Moon

I am currently working on my ITQ in accessible practice and whilst planning a session for the Excel unit of this, it reminded me of a resource that I created many, many years ago and look back and realise that it is still a really good resource.

Screen Shot of the golf gravity resource

Golf Gravity

The resource came about because I was teaching biomechanics at level 3 and 4, and one of the criteria was for the learner to understand the impact that gravity had on the flight of an object (e.g. a ball). The problem with this is that I don’t have the ability to turn gravity off, and as the college wouldn’t pay for me to build a rocket and go to the moon, I created a simulation – which you can see below.

In essence you can alter the velocity (speed) that the ball is hit, the angle and the planet (or moon to be technically correct) that you are playing on (which thus alters the gravity). The beauty of this resource was that I could use this with different levels of learner, just by using different questions sheets.

This was created in Excel, using some simple (well simple for someone like me that likes biomechanics) and plotting a graph, and shows how Excel can be used to create effective teaching and learning resources.

Golf Gravity resource

Creative Commons License
Golf Gravity by Dave Foord is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/golfgravity.xls.