Monologue or dialogue?

IMG_3843You can’t afford to think like you used to… This is as true in education now as it is in marketing.

Under the old model you used to be able to broadcast your message to your audience. It was a one-way information transaction. You would transmit and they would receive. You were active and they were passive.

We grew up with this. Think of traditional television advertising… think of your high school education… think of how you experienced any higher level learning: typically, the teacher stands at the front. Students sit in rows. Teacher teaches. Learners learn. It’s a one way transaction. A monologue.

Under the new model, both parties are active participants. You can blame the internet if you like. But it’s a good thing. This is how social media marketing works. You talk to your customers and clients. They talk back. That’s how companies and organisations use tools like Facebook and Twitter. It’s incredibly powerful and your customers feel empowered.

In other words, it’s a dialogue.

This has profound implications for education. The internet, social media, computer games, Youtube and multitudes of other well-designed, visually-oriented, customer-centred interactions have trained our learners to expect the dialogue.

They want to talk back. More than that… they expect to contribute. The old model doesn’t  allow this. Sure there are exceptions. But what they are. Exceptions.

The lecture, the monologue, and in particular, the live delivery face-to-face lecture monologue, isn’t exactly dead… but it needs to give up some space to the new model.

This new model is a dialogue. Our learners want to, expect to, engage in this dialogue. Trades and vocational tutors instinctively know this.

So the call to action is this: How are you going to make your teaching and learning more of a dialogue and less of a monologue?

Kia kaha

EdTech 101: Why I chose Pathways Awarua over Pathwright and Udemy


Ok… so I changed my mind. I’ve been on a fairly steep learning curve when it comes to courseware and authoring tools for creating online learning and teaching content.

A while ago I said that I was going to use Pathwright instead of Udemy to have a go a developing a FastTrack version of my course.

Well… some things changed. Including my mind. As well as what I wanted to do online. At the moment, I’ve shelved my idea on creating an online FastTrack version of my course – the National Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace) also known as the NCALNE (Voc).

Instead, I’m working with the great team at Pathways Awarua to create a lite version of our existing course. You can read about it here.

This is working out great for a number of reasons:

  1. I don’t need to create any new material. Rather, I’m just repurposing the existing material into the online and interactive format.
  2. The tech team is in the same time zone (e.g. NZ-based), I know them, and I can easily ring them to talk about what we’re doing.
  3. The platform is already established in our educational niche in New Zealand.
  4. A good number of our NZ educators are already registered in the site and are now instantly able to access the training.
  5. The professional development modules that we’re creating help to bridge a gap between what the learners are doing and what the tutors need to know. And there is relevant government compliance sitting in the background that makes this really relevant and important for training organisations.
  6. It’s made this introduction to the world of embedded literacy and numeracy available at zero cost to the educators.
  7. It’s a easy and low pressure way of getting tutors and trainers interested in the entry-level qualification that we offer through ALEC.
  8. Because of the proliferation of smartphones and apps, people instinctively understand the business model at work here. If they like the free lite version of the course (most of the information and none of the assessment tasks) they can sign up with us for the paid full version and gain the qualification.

I’m still keen to do more online with my full course, but at present what I think I need to do is repackage everything on a totally different platform… one that leverages video technology in particular.



Embedding literacy and numeracy: What’s on your radar?

Image 18-06-13 at 8.43 AMWhat’s on your radar? If you are a trades tutor or involved with vocational training, you need to have literacy and numeracy on your radar.

Good tutors and trainers have always embedded the literacy and numeracy that their learners need. However, this usually happens in what I call stealth mode.

It’s hard to identify the specific literacy and numeracy that’s in your course if it’s in stealth mode. One of the first steps to get it out of stealth mode is to switch on your embedded literacy and numeracy radar.

This means that you need to develop your own heightened awareness of the actual literacy and numeracy that already underpins your teaching and training. And to do that you need to think about your own particular context.

You can develop these superpowers on your own. However, it’s easier if you get involved in some kind of professional development. Now you can do that online for free.

Make sure literacy and numeracy are on your radar today…


Embedding literacy and numeracy: The funnel of context

Image 13-06-13 at 9.38 AMSometimes, it’s too easy to just jump straight into the fun stuff. When you’re enthusiastic about using a new resource or teaching activity or you’re just coming to grips with this whole embedding literacy and numeracy thing you might be tempted to just jump into the deep water without thinking things through.

This approach does have a certain appeal. But it’s a bit like using a shotgun. And what you really need is a sniper rifle…

When you’ve got a sniper rifle you can be very selective and well… targeted… And you don’t have time to be anything but selective and targeted when it comes to the literacy and numeracy that your learners really need.

But you can’t get to that place unless you go through what I call The Funnel of Context [Queue extra big reverb and delay]. This means that you’ve thought about your context for teaching and training, and you have an understanding of the issues that impact your learners. And from there you can really develop an informed understanding of the literacy and numeracy demands of your training.

Then, you can actually take informed action when it comes to the fun stuff – like the teaching delivery and resource development side of things.

If you haven’t strengthened your own understanding of your context including having a go at answering the questions below, then your best intentions (and actions) are likely to be uninformed, i.e. the shotgun blast.

You don’t need definitive answers if you’re just starting out, but you at least need to think about the questions.

The Funnel of Context: Consider these questions…

  1. What are you talking about?
    • What do you mean by literacy and numeracy?
    • What about embedded literacy and numeracy?
    • Are there official definitions for these terms?
  2. Why do we have this problem?
    • Why do your learners struggle with literacy and numeracy?
  3. What’s the impact?
    • What’s the impact of low levels of literacy and numeracy on your training? What does this mean for your work? Your organisation? On your industry? Your community? Your country?
  4. What’s the background?
    • What have others done to strengthen literacy and numeracy?
    • What initiatives are underway at the moment to strengthen literacy and numeracy?
    • What frameworks or infrastructure are in place to support and strengthen literacy and numeracy?
  5. What are the resources?
    • What resources do you have access to right now? What about online?
    • What organisations are there to support you?
    • What about individuals with specialist expertise?

Embedding literacy and numeracy: What’s your plan?

Here’a another one from the Literacy Numeracy Pro infinite content generation engine…

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It’s important to have a plan. If you are a trades trainer or vocational tutor you need to have a plan on how you’re going to deal with the literacy and numeracy needs of your learners.

Why? Well… because the same stuff that they struggled with at school is going to be the same stuff they struggle with in your training. You know… when their eyes glaze over when you start talking…

This means reading and mathematics.

The best way to get a plan is to get your head fully around your own context first of all. And that means more than just the industry context that you already know so well. I’m talking about your regional and national context… including reasons why your learners are the way they are. Why they can’t read or write as well as they should. Why they can’t do the math like you think that ought.

I mean… have you really thought about why your learners struggle with things like reading and mathematics?

Perhaps you have. I don’t know. What I do know is that you have a huge advantage over those in the school sector and over the so-called literacy and numeracy “experts”.

You might not see it this way. But the huge advantage that you have is as follows.


And to take advantage of your advantage you need to have a plan. And the best plans distill both context and content knowledge as you carry out these steps:

  1. Map the demands of your training: This simply means working out where the pain points are for the particular literacy and numeracy demands of your course, training, or work. Examples might include specialised or technical vocabulary. Or particular calculations or measurements specific to your trade.
  2. Administer diagnostic tests: Based on your mapping and using what you already know about your learners you need to design and administer some quick and dirty diagnostic tests. These short tests should have a go at working out what your learners do and don’t know about very specific areas of literacy and numeracy. Just pick micro skill area at a time and design a quick, appropriate assessment. Think of this as a pretest. Analyse the results.
  3. Embed the literacy and numeracy: Then you need to write and deliver some very specific and targeted teaching. This teaching (and learning) needs to be an attempt to deliberately and explicitly deal with the literacy or numeracy skill that you identified in your mapping and diagnostic testing. Think of this as a literacy (or numeracy) teaching intervention. I also call this an #MVP or Minimum Viable Pedagogy. It is, after all, the least you should be doing for your learners to help them engage with and comprehend your teaching and training.
  4. Assess your learners’ progress: After this you need to check to see whether your intervention made any difference. The simplest way to do this is to recycle your pretest. You might need to create a “Version B” of your pretest. But for our purposes you could probably just re-administer the pretest as a posttest without making an changes.

That’s it really…

Oh. One more thing. Now you’ve got data. You can compare the differences between your pre and post tests and workout whether it made any difference or not. If it did, you probably just did something that would make a useful change to your future programmes and training. If it didn’t then you just eliminated something that you might not want to repeat. This is called evaluation.

And then what…? Repeat. And then repeat again. And again. And again. Pretty much forever.

Sure I’ve embedded literacy and numeracy…

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I drew this diagram the other day to highlight to myself and others the fact that embedded literacy and numeracy learning outcomes, activities, strategies, and resources all exist on a continuum.

It’s pretty easy to say: “Yeah… I’ve embedded that…!” When it comes to certain literacy and numeracy skills that you (hopefully) know that your learners need strengthened in order for you to do your job as a trainer or tutor.

However, it’s more difficult to actually point to those activities and say: “See that…! That’s an embedded literacy activity” or “Here’s my embedded numeracy teaching around place value”.

The thing is that your embedding is sometimes in what I call “stealth mode”. That means it’s kind of flying below the radar. That means probably your learners don’t really know that they’re doing literacy and numeracy. And perhaps you don’t really know either.

What you need to do is get your literacy and numeracy teaching and training out of stealth mode and make it explicit. Then anybody, your learners or your colleagues, should be able to look at your training and identify where it’s actually happening.

Then, when you do this you can start measuring the impact that you’re making. And then… once you’re measuring what you’re doing you can start tinkering with it and make some improvements.

All the best with that…