How Do I Become A Remote Worker…?


I want to become a remote worker

I want to become a remote worker.

I don’t think I’ll be able to sit on the beach and sip cocktails in Bali while I’m working. But I want the freedom to work more like a remote worker.

So I’m evolving. My workflow is changing.

I live in New Zealand. So that’s pretty remote anyway. I’m not moving house or shifting overseas. I’m just looking for flexibility. And greater productivity when I am “at work”.

I’m also looking to get out of the house and detach myself from my home office (as nice as it is).

I also want to detach myself from all the physical crap that comes with running a business. My home office and garage and parts of my roof are full of work crap.

And I’ve got some off site storage as well. Also full of crap.

Here’s my plan… I’m not saying that this will work for you, but this is what I’m doing right now. And it is working for me.

I’m moving out of home

I already work from home. We got rid of classrooms and offices several years ago. This was a great step as it reduced our overheads. I love not leasing a building.

My home office is comfortable. I have a nice desk, chair, big screen and storage. This is one of the problems. So I’ve moved out.

I’m working in a co-working space

I have a desk downtown at a co-working space called Kloud Collective. It’s a new startup run by a friend of mine who is also my Google guy. More on Google later.

To work there, I have to drive to work. That means I have to leave the house. It’s great.

It also means that I get to rub shoulders with others who are also working like this too.

This includes some cool Taupo-based startups including

  • Cloud-based accounting champions Beany.com.
  • Aviation video recording pros Eye-Fly.
  • Virtual office and personal assistant Rogue PA.

It’s a great bunch of people. Focused. If there’s a key here, it’s that working with other people working remotely works. Well it does for me at least.

I’m using Evernote as my memory

I’ve written about Evernote before. I have a love/hate relationship with the cloud-based notetaking app. I’m giving it another shot.

It’s working. As long as I keep things simple, it’s fine. I use it as my digital note pad for jotting down ideas. That’s about it.

I also keep a personal todo list in Evernote. Yes, I know there are proper todo list apps. I’ve used all of them.

Now I have one todo list note for the month that I’m in. And I write all my todo lists in this note.

I dump everything out of my head into the day’s todo list. Then whatever doesn’t get done gets copied to the next day’s list which just starts at the top of the same page.

If I’m not getting something done, there’s usually a reason. So then I’ll delete the item from the list.

Or I’ll transfer it out to another list where I can forget about it.

I’m using Basecamp to manage my business processes

We run an education business. We’ve been using Basecamp for this for years. It’s not perfect. But if comes close.

Here’s the secret: Every student is a project in the project management system.

We build every project from a template that we’ve been tweaking since 2007.  It’s a dynamic process, but this means we have consistency. There are more than 100 things that have to happen for every single student every single time.

And this manages every process from enrolment through to graduation and archiving. It’s also scalable.

I’m using Slack to communicate with my team. 

Slack is an instant messaging app for team. It’s touted as an email killer. Please don’t email me. I hate email so I’m always ready to look for alternatives.

I’ve been using Apple’s iMessage and Viber for a couple of years now as alternatives. But the big problem is that they are not searchable.

Slack is secure and searchable. And I can set up different channels for different kinds of chat. And we can all private message each other as well.

I’ve just figured out that I can link my Google Drive and Google Calendar to Slack. And I’ve also started using it to log my time for certain jobs.

Sure it’s another mouth to feed. But less email.

I’m using Sales IQ to keep track of new business

I’m terrible at marketing. My idea of marketing is waiting for people to ring me up.

I’m trying to be better. I subscribed to Sales IQ recently. Again, it’s cloud-based software as a service. I can use it to keep track of people that I send out marketing material too.

The idea is that it manages the sales pipeline for me. It will even do fancy reports. I don’t care about fancy reports.

This aspect of my business has always been weak. But then again, I’ve never had a good process or system.

Basecamp evolved into a bespoke student management system. I’m hoping that Sales IQ will evolve into something similar for tracking new business.

I’m using online banking

This one is a no-brainer. I never go to the bank. I can’t understand why banks still have buildings. I predict that soon all banks will no longer have buildings.

I’ve have a PO Box but I pay the courier to deliver my mail

I have a PO Box. I’ve had one since I started my business. It’s just one of those things I have to have as long as other people insist on sending me physical mail.

This might sound weird. But now I pay the courier a few bucks a week to clear the PO Box for me and deliver the contents to my house. Yes, like a mailman.

Yes, I know I could just redirect it to my house address. But it makes me happy to keep the separation between my business postal address and my home address.

I also don’t have to remember to clear the PO Box. That’s what I’m paying for. I also don’t care what you think about it.

I’m using online shopping for just about everything

I hate shopping in shops. This one has tipped for me. I now prefer the online experience for most things. Books. Clothes. Groceries. Office supplies.

I do like going to cafes and restaurants though. And some shops are cool. But they have to offer me some kind of experience now.

Luckily, there are lots of great coffee shops close to the co-working space. Like downstairs. I’m going there in about 5 minutes.

I’m using Google Apps for Business

I’ve been onto this one for a while. Gmail takes care of my work emails. And I have priority inbox turned on. That means that unsolicited or unknown emails get pushed right down the queue.

If you want to email me, please don’t. Use our office email instead: assess@alec.ac.nz. It’s my goal for the business to only have one email.

Google apps means that we use Drive for all our files. And it also means that we use Docs for all word processing and Sheets for all spread sheeting.

I’m forced by others to use MS Word or Excel from time to time. This makes me feel tired.

I’m using a virtual assistant

Actually, she’s more of a virtual administrator. She takes care of the emails and all incoming communications. This includes all student work coming into the organisation.

Sometimes we work side by side in real time in the same physical location. Like regular humans. At other times, we each work remotely for different places.

Slack allows us to chat about whatever we need to. Sometimes this is live. Sometimes it’s delayed.

I don’t tell her what times she needs to be “at work”. All the jobs get done. I trust her.

I’m trying to minimise all paper flowing in and out of my organisation

I can’t get rid of everything. Some things remain out of my control. But many of my statements come electronically. And I have many of my bills set up for direct debit or credit card.

I have a small portable scanner set up to scan receipts and other crap

I bought a scanner for this purpose about two years ago. But I couldn’t make it work. I just wasn’t disciplined enough to do it.

I think this was because I was so well set up at home with a physical filing system in place. And I actually couldn’t make it work.

And I actually couldn’t make it work.

Now I have ScanSnap sync set up. This means I can scan straight into my Google Drive. From here I can file receipts, share other documents, or just archive stuff.

Then I throw away whatever the useless paperwork is. I’m not your accountant though. So just take that one with a grain of salt.

I’m gearing up for outsourcing storage and distribution as well as print on demand and drop shipping

We send a lot of stuff by courier. Our students get a big study pack of printed material soon after they start.

Most of this is also online as well, but they really like it printed. I mean really like it.

And then when they finish they receive an exit pack with their certificate and other things.

All this takes up space. I have cupboards full of resources and shelves stacked with study packs. This occupies my home office, garage, and off site storage.

If I want to be a remote worker I need a solution to this. If I want to get my garage back I need a solution to this. And I think I’ve found one.

And I think I’ve found one.

I have a friend at a printing company who will print, store and distribute the study packs. It doesn’t matter that she is in a different part of the country.

What matters is that if we do the printing with her, she’ll store everything. And when prompted, her company will courier this out to our students and pass on the costs to us.

Also, changes at NZQA might mean that we can print our own certificates. At the moment, NZQA prints and ships us the certificate. Then we copy it and ship it to the student in an exit pack.

The paper goes up and down the country twice before it finds it’s home.

Once we can print our own certificates, I can outsource this to the printing company as well. They’ll be able to print and securely ship these as we need.

And I’m looking to get some of our other education resources for sale online with another company.

If it works this will be a print-on-demand, drop shipping arrangement. In other words, someone will be able to order one copy of a poster. This will then get printed and shipped to them.

Normally, this kind of one-off print on demand makes you the enemy of any self respecting print shop. But when it’s a global niche, it’s good business for someone. Even if they’re in Amsterdam.

That’s how I plan on becoming a remote worker. I’ll keep you posted.

Working from Bali is still a way off. Hopefully, though, it means more time for drinking coffee downstairs.

How to learn anything part 2: What you need is an operating system for learning…


sniper-in-your-face1

I started my riff on How to Learn Anything in another post which you can read here.

Basically, what I’m suggesting is that you don’t need to be smart to learn new stuff. What you need is a combination of grit plus a toolbox of tools to help you learn.

A reliable system, in other words, is all you need to learn anything. And this system is not any kind of secret knowledge. It’s in plain view and the tools are accessible to anyone.

But what you might need is someone to help you put all the pieces together. To show you what the tools are that you need in your tool box.

So the next question is… what would this system look like? Here’s the answer:

In broad terms, it’s an operating system for learning. There are specific tools to use at each stage, but as an overview your operating system for learning looks something like this:

  1. Seek to understand context and connections: Try to work out, investigate, and understand the context for what you want to learn. And look for connections within this context between chunks of content as well as outside to other areas, particularly areas that seem – on the surface – to have no relationship to what you’re trying to learn. This is ongoing. It’s not just something you do once.
  2. Work out what you don’t know: This can be difficult. After all, how do you know what you don’t know, right? However, start with the big picture, your broad goals, or  desired skills and then break it down from there. Deconstruct where you want to be – the intended outcome or state – into smaller and smaller chunks. And you have to break this down into specific kinds of learning. e.g. practical skills, vocabulary, being able to read and understand the source material.
  3. Work out where you are now: In order to move forward you need to have a sense of where you are now in relation to where you want to be. You need a way of knowing how much you know about your new learning goal as well a how competent or proficient you are. This might be easier particularly if you’re starting something new from scratch.
  4. Work out what the next steps are: What you want is a sequence of highly focused next steps to take you to your goal. You want to be able to target each of these next steps in your development with the precision and focus of a crack shot military sniper. And in these next steps you need to know what to do. Here you are going to need strategies for learning skills, reading complicated materials, dealing with new language and more.
  5. Have ways of measuring your progress: This is critical. How will you know that you’ve made progress or arrived at your goal? You need clear ways of measuring your progress that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
  6. Have ways of measuring your effectiveness: What we’re talking about here is you reflecting critically on what you’re doing and figuring out what has worked and what you need to do differently to keep moving forward.

Next we’ll need to know what some of the practical tools are that you can use at each stage.

Paulo Coelho

How do I get started on Assessment 5 of the NCALNE (Voc) and demonstrating that I’m actually embedding literacy and numeracy into my training?


embedding 02

If you’re up to this stage, you’re actually about, or even over, half way. This section is a big chunk… but it’s also the teaching component of the qualification.

Basically, after having mapped the literacy and numeracy demands, and diagnosed your learners literacy and numeracy needs, you actually need to get out there and do some embedded literacy and numeracy teaching.

These are your interventions, in other words. You have to come up with embedded literacy and numeracy focused learning outcomes, activities, and strategies. We’ve got a very specific format for doing this, so make sure you pay attention to what’s in your Assessment Guide or in Pathways Awarua in Assessment Module 5.

Here’s a list of various links and articles that might support you through this part of the training:

  1. As always, if you haven’t already, all of our course content is available for free in interactive modules on the Pathways Awarua literacy and numeracy learning platform. You can find the instructions on how to register here if you haven’t already. We have a unique ALEC join code so email us for it if you need it (assess@alec.ac.nz)
  2. I know I said it already, but don’t forget to check what’s already in your ALEC Study Guide and Assessment Guide for this part of the course.
  3. We’ve also got a great one-page handout that summarises the connections between assessments 4, 5, 6 – email us for a copy if you haven’t got it already.
  4. You can listen to an audio-only podcast of me talking through Assessment 5 here if you need a refresh on the requirements.
  5. There are video clips on Section 5 of the NCALNE (Voc) here on our Youtube channel.
  6. If you need ideas for activities for reading, writing, listening, speaking, and numeracy there is a wealth of material including teaching points, guided learning sequences, and resources in your ALEC Study Pack in the Learning Progressions support guides. Much of that is also online here if you want to go in and find it.
    • Unfortunately, this great content tends to be buried inside the other content so you have to click through a sequence like this to find an activity: Go to website >> Click Explore the learning progressions for Make Sense of Number to Solve Problems >> this takes you to a page from the learning progressions for multiplicative strategies where you can click on an activity like Multiplication Strategies where you get the actual activity or can download it as a PDF. The alternative is just to turn to page 39 in the Teaching Adults to Make Sense of Number book. I’m going to have a go a progressively dealing with this issue and liberating this material, but it might have to wait until another time.
  7. As well as the massive amount of content and ideas provided in the support materials to the Learning Progressions there is also a wealth of information on LN activities online. For this reason, I haven’t focused so much on the activities on my blog or in the ALEC Study Guide. However, I have posted a few bits and pieces here that are useful. First though you need to make sure that you understand how to write really focused embedded literacy and numeracy learning outcomes. If you need them, please refer to:
  8. Here are a few numeracy activities that, while they aren’t particularly contextualised, they are fun and they work:
  9. I did also start looking at some ideas for designing independent reading activities based on literacy unit standards 26622 and 26624 here if that’s of interest. There’s a downloadable cover sheet that you could adapt or cannibalise in any way you like here. Just a caution though, if you’re just doing a couple of embedded reading activities for your NCALNE (Voc) and you don’t care about US 26622 and 26624, you’d be well advised to strip back my suggestions to only what you think you really need.
  10. In terms of writing, I also started developing some ideas for a writing workshop here which I did flesh out in a bit more detail here. But again, just pick and choose what you want. If you’re just doing a couple of embedded writing activities for the NCALNE (Voc) you can be very selective here.
  11. Lastly:
    • Don’t forget to collect actual evidence of your learners actually doing the learning that you’ve designed. Think about using the digital camera on your phone. Scan copies of their completed work or drafts. Take a photo of what on the whiteboard at different stages. And send all of this together with your write up of Assessment 5 and copies of the activities that you used.
    • Don’t forget to make at least one of your embedded LN teaching interventions some kind of independent learning activity, i.e. where your learners do it without you (whether at home, in class, or wherever).
    • Don’t forget to think about where and when you will re-assess your learners using the contextualised LN tools you used earlier. You’ll need this for Assessment 6.
    • Don’t forget to build in some kind of evaluation component. You’ll need this for Assessment 7.
  12. If you’re working on this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, your employer will need to have paid your course fee in order to unlock assessment modules (3 – 7)
  13. And if you’re a paid up student and you’re not completing this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, you can email us (assess@alec.ac.nz) for the latest version of the template for assessment Task 5.
  14. Otherwise, give us a call to discuss (0800-ALEC-1-2) or email us anyway (assess@alec.ac.nz) and we’ll be in touch to help explain or clarify.

How do I get started measuring learner literacy and numeracy progress for Assessment 6 for the NCALNE (Voc)?


super-strength

Actually, if you’re at this stage you’ve really done most of the “heavy lifting” that I’ve referred to elsewhere in terms of producing evidence for this qualification. This particular assessment task is about figuring out whether you’ve seen any progress in terms of your learners literacy and numeracy skills, or at least the narrow selection of skills that you’ve been targeting through your project work in the timeframe that you’ve had.

One of the things you need to produce is some kind of evidence that you’re measuring learner progress, e.g. some kind of formative or summative assessment data for the learners that you’ve been tracking.

This is so, when you write all of this up, you can compare their before and after scores. The easiest way to deal with this is to re-administer the contextualised LN assessments that you used as part of the diagnostic process. There may not be enough time elapsed to make it worth re-doing the TEC assessments, although this could be a requirement for some of you anyway.

Here’s some things that you can watch, listen to, and read if you need a hand getting started on this assessment.

  1. As always, if you haven’t already, all of our course content is available for free in interactive modules on the Pathways Awarua lplatform. You can find the instructions on how to register here if you haven’t already. We have a unique ALEC join code so email us for it if you need it (assess@alec.ac.nz).
  2. Don’t forget to check what’s already in your ALEC Study Guide and Assessment Guide for this part of the course.
  3. We’ve also got a great one-page handout that summarises the connections between assessments 4, 5, 6 – email us for a copy if you haven’t got it already.
  4. If you need a refresh on what’s required, I’ve got a short audio-only podcast of me talking through the assessment requirements here.
  5. There are video clips on progress assessment Assessment 6 of the NCALNE (Voc) that you can watch on our Youtube channel.
  6. If you’re working on this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, your employer will need to have paid your course fee in order to unlock assessment modules 3 – 6.
  7. And if you’re a paid up student and you’re not completing this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, you can email us (assess@alec.ac.nz) for the latest version of the template for assessment Task 6.
  8. Otherwise, give us a call to discuss (0800-ALEC-1-2) or email us anyway (assess@alec.ac.nz) and we’ll be in touch to help explain or clarify.

Don’t forget, as well, that everything that we covered in Assessment 4 on diagnostic assessment can apply here. It’s just that you’re looking back at what your learners have done, rather than looking forward at what you need to work on with them.