Which microphone does Sal Kahn use?


To be honest I have no idea… However, I’ve found one that I think absolutely rocks. Here it is above. It’s the Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone – Silver.

This mic seems to work well with both my Macbook and my iPad. I’ve used it to record Sal Khan style YouTube clips for my education and training business. I’ve also used it with my iPad for music, although I think it really needs a powered USB hub to work more effectively with the iPad.

The sound quality is excellent. I’m convinced my voice sounds better through the Yeti than it does in real life. I bought it though the Apple Store but the link in the image above will take you to Amazon. I’m not sure which is the cheapest option at the moment but I’ve had no regrets and I’m hoping to really put it to good use next year as I get large chunks of my training course set up online.

Here’s my set up.

Yeti mic

What does quality online literacy and numeracy training for adults look like?


Well that’s an easy one to answer. It looks like this: Pathways Awarua.

Pathways Awarua is a New Zealand-based approach to supporting and strengthening literacy and numeracy for adults. We use it in our local intensive literacy and numeracy training known as SMART in Taupo.

Pathways Aware

We love Pathways Awarua… Here are some of the advantages that we see using Pathways Awarua:

  1. It frees up our tutors to concentrate on the issues that learners have when they have them.
  2. It encourages self-paced, self directed learning. Learners still need tutors and guidance but our learners love working on Pathways at their own pace.
  3. It covers literacy and numeracy. There’s more numeracy content than there is literacy, but we expect the content to grow over time.
  4. It’s a nice clean uncluttered user interface. It’s really visual and easy for our learners to use.
  5. We can start our learners at the level determined by their score on the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool (LNAAT) that we use for diagnostic purposes.
  6. It genuinely seems to cause our learners to score better in the LNAAT when we come around to assessing their progress.

In short, Pathways Awarua rocks.

You can also LIKE them on Facebook here. It’s the least you can do. Using Pathways? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Examples of how to embed literacy and numeracy


Are you looking for examples of how to embed literacy and numeracy? Want to find out more about embedding literacy and numeracy into your training? Curious about the NCALNE (Voc) professional development?

You need to LIKE the Embedding Literacy and Numeracy Facebook Page by ALEC

You’ll find all sorts of things on our Facebook Page including:

  1. Photographs of our learners and the resources they create to embed literacy and numeracy into their training.
  2. Snippets from our professional development and training.
  3. Tips and techniques for embedding literacy and numeracy into training.
  4. Everything related to embedding literacy and numeracy and the National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy (Vocational) otherwise known as the NCALNE (Voc).

The Embedding Literacy and Numeracy Facebook Page (by ALEC)

Easy ways to embed literacy and numeracy – Part 1


There are lots of easy ways to embed literacy and numeracy into your training or education programme. All of these approaches require some basic assumptions first though. In a nutshell these are:

  1. Knowing the demands: This means that you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to your training context. And this includes knowing what you mean when you are talking about literacy, why there is a problem with low levels of literacy, and the impact of this on your learners’ study or work environments. Knowing the demands also means that you know what some good approaches to teaching and training are, and that you’ve analysed your training materials, tasks, and texts and worked out exactly what you expect of your learners with regards to things like the context specific vocabulary and reading comprehension requirements.
  2. Knowing your learner: This means that you have diagnostic processes and tools in place. These can be your own teacher made diagnostic tools or externally mandated assessment tools. Ideally, you want a combination of tools and processes that give you both a “broad brush strokes” analysis as well as very specific insights into very specific aspects of your training. You also need to know how to understand the results and do something with them, such as creating literacy and numeracy focused individual or group learning plans with SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
  3. Knowing what to do: This is where people want to jump to straight away. However, it’s better if you’ve worked through steps 1 and 2 above first. Knowing what to do is about doing the actual embedded delivery, assessing or measuring learner progress, and then evaluating your effectiveness. Having some cool resources or fun activities is part of this, but it’s also important to make sure you have the whole process sorted out. This means that your activities and resources are informed by what you know about the training demands and your learners. In other words, you should be targeting the gap between the training demands and your learners’ actual abilities. And then don’t forget to test-teach-test. If you don’t measure what you’re doing you have no way of proving to yourself or others whether you are being effective or not.

That said: Here’s one easy way to embed literacy, more specifically vocabulary:

  • First of all, find a text that you use with your learners, preferably something that you know causes difficulties because of the technical jargon or complicated specialised language of your trade.
  • Copy the text electronically and paste it into the Vocab Profiler and hit submit. It’s an ugly website but it’s really useful.
  • Scroll down the results and look at the different word frequency lists. You will see words from the first thousand (1K) list, second thousand (2K) list, academic word list (AWL), and then a list of all the words that are Off List. You could chose to focus on any of these lists depending on the level of your learners, but chances are if you are teaching adults in a trades or vocational training course the Off List words will be the words that your learners struggle with.
  • You should be able to print or copy a print friendly version of these words that you can then do things with.

What to do with the words:

  1. Front loading: If you pick about 10 of the Off List words (or any that you’ve identified as problematic) you can teach them to your learners right at the beginning of the training session. Tell them that they will need these words to makes sense of the trades-related text or task that is about to follow.
  2. Create a word bank: Either by yourself or together with your learners, create a poster or other visual word bank of the key technical or trades-focused words that your learners need to learn. Refer to your word bank often and add new words as they arise.
  3. Start a glossary: Start a class glossary of terms contextualised to a specific aspect of your trade or vocational training. Again, you could do this or get your learners to do it. Write your own plain English explanations and collect examples of the words use in context. Once you have a contextualised glossary with a decent number of words, explanations, and example sentences you can then use this as a further resource to generate activities such as term and definition matching, sentence completion, cloze, and plain old spelling lists.

Any other ideas? Let me know in the comments or on the ALEC Embedding Literacy and Numeracy Facebook page.

Bloom’s Taxonomy – the Poutama Version


Blooms taxonomy has been around for awhile. It’s just a big list of action verbs that are quite useful for framing learning. There are various models floating around the web if you do a google search.

What I did is is a mashup of Bloom’s taxonomy together with the Poutama – a particularly useful model of how learning happens taken from Maori education. You can hear more about the Poutama model and story here:

The idea is that each step on the Poutama for Bloom’s Taxonomy contains a list of words that you can use to help you write learning outcomes. In our case, we use it to teach people how to write embedded literacy and numeracy learning outcomes.

The basic idea is that learners need to move from the lower domains to the higher ones. Here’s the current version that we use:

Bloom’s Taxonomy – Poutama Version

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. And… visit our Facebook Page.

How I set up three new Facebook Pages and the impact of Facebook advertising


Actually, I’ve got three Facebook pages now. Compared to creating webpages on a standard website I can’t believe how easy it is. I’ve set up one for ALEC, another for SMART, and another for Cubical 496.

I set up the pages a while ago but we’ve really only been using the SMART page. I’ve recently been pumping the ALEC page full of photos. Cubical 496 is a Facebook Page for some fictional characters that I’ve created.

ALEC Facebook Page. This is the page for our literacy and numeracy professional development work. We teach the National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational) which we call the NCALNE (Voc) for short. This is the new one.

  • The ALEC page started the campaign with around 12 LIKES. However, I set the daily budget to $10 and I’m going to run it for a week only. After one day I’ve got 52 LIKES. This seems like much better bang for buck than my previous campaign which was for the SMART page below. Total cost will be around $70.

Smart Facebook Page. This is the page for our local Taupo community programme which teaches literacy and numeracy and basic computing skills.

  • The SMART page has around 126 LIKES thanks to a Facebook advertising campaign that I ran a few months back. I ran daily ads with a daily limit of $5 or $10 over several weeks and across around 5 different ads. Total cost was around $600.

Cubical 496 Facebook Page. Here’s where you can learn about the exciting life and times of Witherington Smithers, Assistant Compliance Advisor to the firm of Grumpkin, Grumpkin, Potts, and Skubb.

  • Cubical 496 only as 8 LIKES, has never been promoted, and is just a fun diversion for now. If we can think of some product to sell we might promote it.

ALEC is on Facebook… Come on over and LIKE our page


Hi there… If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that my business involves teaching literacy and numeracy professional development. You may not know that we have a Facebook page set up for ALEC.

We’ve had it for a while, but it’s taken until now for me to load it up with some photos. So if you’re interested in what I do for a job or just want to see some cool photos of our learners and trainers doing their thing, pop over and LIKE our page.

You can find us here – the Official ALEC Facebook Page. Here’s a sample below of some of our students presenting on their embedded literacy and numeracy projects.