Want to help your kids with reading?


My friend James is developing free resources for parents to help kids with reading. There’s video tutorials, PDF downloads, comprehension questions, and all kinds of  stuff.

This is very cool Kiwi content that you should support. You can also watch and listen to James reading the stories out loud.

There’s a low-key focus on teaching and learning reading comprehension strategies and building vocabulary through original stories.

More about James’ background and own story here.

4 Things I Can Do to Become Antifragile in Education


nassim-taleb-any-attack-makes-me-stronger

Nassem Taleb is an expert on risk and probability and he recommends in his latest book that we become less fragile, more robust, and actually antifragile.

This is more than just Sissy Resilience… and this means that when the stuff hits the fan you actually bounce back stronger than before, and actually made stronger by the disorder around you.

Education is fragile. And working in education opens you, your career, your mortgage up to all kinds of fragility by implication. This is bad.

Education, of course, is good. But if we want to survive as educators in this increasingly fragile landscape we need to embrace the fact that it’s fraught with risks and randomness of all kinds.

And we need to do things to mitigate the risks to ourselves and our businesses where we can.

One of the lessons from Taleb’s Antifragile for me seems to be that rather than avoiding things like risk, uncertainty and variability we should be embracing them. And in fact, seeking them out.

With that in mind, here’s my take on 4 things I can do in education and in my work that hopefully increase my ability to be really resilient by intentionally playing around with risk, randomness, uncertainty, and variability.

I’m not saying that they’ll work for you… but if they work for me I’ll let you know.

1. Disrupt my education business model

BMG-Book-Cover

The idea here is that either I can wait for someone to disrupt my work or I can disrupt it myself and maintain some slight control (even if it’s illusory) over the disruptive factors.

Our education business models are pretty much a last century paradigm. Mostly the old-school business model goes something like this:

  • Someone pays a fee + I deliver training. I might possibly award some kind of credential if the stakes are a bit higher.

Leaving aside the problems with our current models of education, let’s focus on messing with the business model.

My real business model is the unique package of things that allows me to sell education and training and generate revenue. This would still hold true even if I worked for a non-profit or charitable organisation.

But consider the new business models though… They’re online. They require people to transact online. That either means a shopping cart or a subscription-based approach.

Bothered by that…? Me too. But disturbing thoughts like these have been nagging at me for awhile. It’s time to do something about it.

If you’re curious about business models Alex Osterwalder’s book really helped clear things up for me in term of what a business model is and gives some great examples. There’s also an iPad app you can play around with.

2. Open source my expertise and knowledge

PA5

Am I the only one who has noticed that the world I live in is radically different to the one I grew up in, even the world I started working in…?

Everything is being disrupted and education isn’t any exception. Aside from firing middle management and cutting dead wood, I think we’re going to see changes everywhere in education resulting in education products for learners that are cheaper, faster, smarter, and more convenient.

What’s more, as we move forward, education will most likely become open sourced, and possibly crowd sourced. This will come at a cost, of course. Some of us won’t survive.

But one of the things that has changed for certain in my mind is that there is no longer a competitive advantage in sitting on any kind of “secret sauce”. The new secret sauce is open source.

And that has implications for my job. And my expertise. What I know and can do is not just information, but a big chunk of it probably is. And that information really wants to make itself freely available to others. This is just the nature of the web.

And the thing is, if I don’t open source what I know, then someone else will do it for me. Either they know they same stuff and they’ll open source that, or they’ll just upload what they’ve learned off me.

So I need to do it first. That’s why I’ve open sourced what I know about our approach to embedding literacy and numeracy via Pathways Awarua and through making our course content freely available to everyone.

Doing nothing is not an option. In fact, doing nothing while everyone and everything around you moves forward is pretty much the same as going backwards.

3. Design the way I want to work

dropbox_basecamp_google_docs

I think that another part of the solution is to design the way that I want to work. For me this means:

  • treating everything as a project
  • working on these projects with a small agile team
  • being mobile and “always on” (except when I switch everything off)
  • working from home (or anywhere)
  • having a team that is geographically dispersed,
  • and mostly ignoring conventional establishment wisdom relating to what I do.

To expand on these, everything in education can be a project. This includes training, resource development, writing and publishing, and running conferences. If I make everything a project then I can project manage. I use Basecamp for this.

“Always on” means that I can work on my projects anywhere. Most of my work is written on laptops and devices in various cities and towns in New Zealand. I now use cloud-based applications almost exclusively for this including Google Docs, WordPress and Evernote. I also use Dropbox and Google Drive to manage it all.

4. Look for new ways to do the same stuff

keep-calm-and-learn-new-things

Another part of the solution for me is to do education and training in new ways that meet the needs and demands of 21st century work and life. This is where expertise needs to collide with new opportunities and disruptive technologies.

And this is hard because it means I have to learn new stuff. And sometimes things don’t work out.

I’m not quite sure where to go with this in all honesty, but something that I’ve done intentionally is to mess around with different online platforms used for authoring education and training materials. I’ve tried a bunch of them, but the one that stuck was the Bracken platform that we used to write up our course and assessment modules.

Authoring software is kind of tricky… and it’s time consuming to learn how to use… but something that is a whole lot simpler and still incredibly disruptive is video and audio. The incredible success of Kahn Academy continues to testify to the disruptive power of video.

I’m hoping to make this year the year I really get serious about capturing much more of our training, resources, knowledge, and expertise via niche audio and video content.

What have I missed? What do you have planned for 2015 that is going to make you stronger, more resilient, resistant to risk, and ultimately more antifragile?

 

5 Questions That Will Make You Uncomfortable If You Work In Education


It’s an uncomfortable business

uncomfortable

Working in education is a tricky and often uncomfortable business. Especially if you want to get paid… And if you work in education sometimes even just using words like money and customers make you feel uncomfortable. You’d better click away now if you’re offended already.

The “Customer” is not a straightforward matter

bad-customer-service

Still, it gets worse, one part of the problem is trying to figure out who your actual customers are. And this might sound kind of strange, but it’s not a straightforward matter. And your main customer might not be who you think it is.

If you’re like me, you have different kinds of customers. All at the same time. These different kinds of customers often have different (and possibly contradictory) needs and expectations.

Paying versus value creation

paying

So how do you figure out who these customers are? Well, you can start by asking these two questions:

1. Who’s paying?

2. Who are you creating the most value for?

You might not need to, but sometimes you may need to decide if your main customer is EITHER the person or organisation that you are creating the most value for, OR the one who is paying you the most. This can be important depending on what key deliverables are for your work.

The tension

eliminate-tension

There is not always a tension between who’s paying versus who you’re creating the most value for. But sometimes there is. People have different needs and wants. So, how will you deal with this? There’s only one answer:

  • Embrace the tension

The Money

money

One way to start thinking about this tension is to follow the money. Ask yourself the question again: Who’s paying?

If your education programme or training is mostly (or completed) funded or subsidised by a government department or similar agency then you better start thinking of them and treating them like a valued customer. Their investment is paying for or subsiding your delivery, outcomes, and probably ensuring that you can pay the rent.

There’s nothing like the promise of continued employment to incentivise your work…

Value

value

However, there’s still the issue of value creation. One way of defining a customer is to determine who you are creating the most value for. Which of these groups are you creating the most value for?

  • The funding agency or other investors?
  • Your learners, i.e. the ones in front of you in the training environment?
  • Your learners’ employers?
  • Your learners’ learners, staff, or clients (if you’re working with tutors and trainers like we do)?

It’s complex

complex

So… are your learners the ones allowing you to pay your bills and meet payroll? For us, it’s more like our learners (and their learners) are the combined end-users of the training that we deliver. They don’t pay, but we do create value for them.

Our customers then are actually a combination of our learners’ employers and a government funding agency (these two groups pay for the training together) as well as the learners themselves (who are non paying customers).

So… understanding who your customers are and getting paid in the education business is a bit more complex than just shipping widgets.

It’s seldom a simple business transaction. The main thing to realise is that organisations and government departments that fund education and training are like venture capital investors. And learners can be customers too, even if they are non-paying customers.

Questions

reductionism

Finally, after you’ve figured out whatever complicated and often contradictory mixture of customers you’re attempting to create value for, you also need to ask these questions for each customer group:

3. What do they really want?

4. Are you really delivering the right results?

5. What’s the return on investment for each?

6. Who’s getting the best return on investment?

So, tar and feather me with the brush of economic reductionism… These last questions make me uncomfortable. But they’re great questions to keep asking.

How do I get started on Literacy and Numeracy Diagnostic Assessment – and Assessment 4 of the NCALNE (Voc)


house_board

If you’re like a lot of people doing the NCALNE (Voc) literacy and numeracy professional development, you realise there’s a bit of what I call “heavy lifting” to do when you get to this stage.

This not because literacy and numeracy diagnostic assessment is any harder than any other part (well… it might be), but the main thing is that you’ve got to start working with a couple of learners that you need to track through the test-teach-test format of Assessments 4, 5, and 6.

For Assessment 4 on LN Diagnostic you need to actually go and do a bunch of things including using the TEC assessment tool as well as a couple of more contextualised assessments of your own.

This is also the point where you need to start thinking about learning plans as well, so there’s quite a lot going on.

With this in mind, I’ve tried to compile a collection of various links and resources that might help if you need them.

  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. 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 diagnostic assessment and Assessment 4 of the NCALNE (Voc) that you can watch on our Youtube channel.
  6. And then there are various resources relating to diagnostic assessment on this blog including:
  7. 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 the assessment module.
  8. 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 4.
  9. 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 on Assessment 3 of the NCALNE (Voc) including Mapping with the Learning Progressions?


Lit Strand

If you need a hand getting cracking on your Assessment 3, which involves doing an analysis of the literacy and numeracy demands of your course, there are several resources online that might be useful:

  • If you haven’t seen it already, all of our course content is now online in interactive modules as part of the Pathways Awarua NCALNE. There are instructions here on how to register if you haven’t already. It’s free. We also have a unique ALEC join code, so email (assess@alec.ac.nz) us for that if you want it.
  • 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.
  • I’ve also got a short post here on my blog on how to get started mapping literacy and numeracy demands.
  • And then there are the video clips available here on our Youtube Channel related to mapping and assessment 3.
  • 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 the assessment module.
  • 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 3.
Otherwise, give us a call to discuss (0800-ALEC-1-2) or email us (assess@alec.ac.nz) and we’ll be in touch to help explain or clarify.
Num Strand

How to get started on Assessment Task 1 of the NCALNE (Voc): The New Zealand context


crank

UPDATED FOR 2015: Please go here.

If you need to complete the NCALNE (Voc) and you’re having trouble getting started (or even if you’re not!), here’s your special care package:

  1. Make sure that you are registered to use Pathways Awarua. The latest version of our entire ALEC course for the NCALNE (Voc) is now online in the Pathways Awarua platform. It’s free to register if you haven’t already. There are instructions here on what to do to register. Once you’ve registered you’ll probably have to complete a couple of short modules on how to use the Pathways platform and then you’ll have access to all of the content modules for the NCALNE (Voc) as well as two of the Assessment modules. We can unlock the rest of the Assessments once (or if) your course fees have been paid. If you want to know more about how the NCALNE (Voc) works on Pathways watch this short YouTube Clip.
  2. Don’t forget to check what’s in your ALEC Study Guide and Assessment Guide. It’s easy to overlook this, but your Study Guide, Assessment Guide, and any readings that we’ve sent you contain everything that you need to complete the assessment for this part of the course.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the requirements for Assessment 1. You can listen to me talking through the assessment tasks in short audio-only podcasts here on my blog. All the assessment podcasts are on the same page on my blog so scroll down to the audio for Assessment 1, click it and listen to it. If you have a smart phone these podcasts will run on your phone if you have a data plan or are in Wi-fi. These audio files are also in the Pathways Awarua Assessment Modules.
  4. Ask yourself the following questions as you work your way through the material. 
    • Definitions: What are the established definitions for adult literacy and numeracy? What’s an embedded approach? What about from a Maori perspective?
    • Initiatives: What are some of the historic and current initiatives that are relevant to your training and learners?
    • Reasons and impact: Why do we have low levels of adult literacy and numeracy? And what’s the impact of this on learners, study, work, communities, industry, and the nation?
    • Resources: What resources are out there to help strengthen adult literacy and numeracy?
    • Recommendations? What do you think would make a difference? What would you suggest to address the issues around low adult literacy and numeracy in relation to your work?
  5. Watch the short YouTube clips on the New Zealand Context on our ALEC Youtube Channel. You can access the playlist for Assessment 1 here.
  6. Work your way through the Module 1 on the New Zealand Context in Pathways Awarua. You’ll have to do some reading and a little bit of writing, but there are some interactions as well. Working your way through this module will set you up for the assessment task. This content is mostly the same as the ALEC Study Guide for the NCALNE (Voc). It updates it in a few places.
  7. There’s the brief overview of Literacy and Numeracy in New Zealand by John Benseman. It’s a PDF download that you can find here.
  8. Read up on the various TEC funded national initiatives that support literacy and numeracy. Full text is here from the TEC in their own words.
  9. Find out more about the State of the Nation with regards to national literacy and numeracy surveys including the current PIAAC and the 2006 ALLS.
  10. Get started on Assessment Task 1: You’ve got two choices here. EITHER you can click on the Assessment Module 1 in Pathways Awarua and do it online. The Assessment modules are below the orange ribbon (the content modules are above the ribbon). OR you can work from the template in the ALEC Assessment Guide. Email us here if you want a copy of the template: assess@alec.ac.nz
  11. Get in touch if you have any questions. If you’re not sure what to do then get in touch with us. Again, send an email to assess@alec.ac.nz or ring or txt me. My phone number is in the course materials as well. Happy to talk anytime. We can support you further with:
    • Guidance around how to write a report
    • Some models in terms of what we’re expecting for your response
    • Extra information as needed

Can you think of anything else…? Let me know in the comments.

How do you get started mapping literacy and numeracy demands with the Learning Progressions (and for Assessment 3 of the NCALNE (Voc)?


Lit Progs

Ok… so you’ve enrolled in the NCALNE (Voc) training to upskill yourself around literacy and numeracy. Or perhaps someone has twisted your arm and now you’re up to your neck in this stuff.

If you’re lucky you’ve been to one of the ALEC workshops and been introduced to the Learning Progressions and had a chance to have a play with the system and how it works.

Perhaps you’re doing the training by distance and you’ve only had access to Pathways Awarua where you can view an entire interactive module on mapping for free. And you might have had a look at our Youtube Channel which also has some tips on what to do.

But you’re still trying to figure out what to do to map the literacy and numeracy demands of your course…

Here’s the first problem: You can’t map everything... there’s not enough time in the day.

Here’s the second problem: There’s so many little nitty gritty details that you instantly become overwhelmed.

Well here’s the solution:

  1. You don’t map everything. You pick and choose some general stuff and a couple of specific but representative samples.
  2. You take a relaxed approach that we call “best guess – don’t stress”
  3. You get familiar with the main literacy and numeracy strands that you think are relevant to your context and eliminate any that aren’t. Work with just the strand charts if the books are too much.
  4. At every point through your analysis, whether looking at the big picture demands or the specific samples you’ve chosen, ask yourself the question: What do I need to know in order to be able to do this?
  5. You start off mapping the “big picture” general literacy and numeracy demands.
    • Map the general literacy demands of your training. This is the big picture stuff. E.g. For a horticulture course I’d expect to see there are lots of technical  words and plant names which would create high demands around progressions like decoding, vocabulary, and comprehension.
    • Map the general numeracy demands of your training. Again, work with the big picture stuff. E.g. For my horticulture example, probably measurement and calculating area are things you might have to get your learners to do in order to learn the trade or complete the course work.
  6. Next you get specific with several samples that target key literacy areas. We usually suggest reading and writing, , but you could pick others like listening and speaking too. You need sample tasks and text to go with these.
    • Map the Specific reading demands of some sample of your course work. E.g. is there a particular reading text that always causes a lot of difficulty for your learners. E.g. this might be something from a course book, a code of practice, a label from the back of package or container. We just need to focus on one thing that your learners need to read that they struggle with. Whatever you pick, keep a copy as evidence because you’ll need that for your NCALNE (Voc) course work.
    • Map the specific writing demands of some sample of your course work. E.g. is there something that they have to write for you that causes problems. E.g. in a work context this could be an accident report. Or in a course context it might be something like a work diary or a short research report that gets assessed.
  7. Then you get specific with several samples that target key numeracy areas. We usually suggest number and measurement, but you could add statistics if it was relevant. You need sample tasks and text to go with these as well.
    • Map the Specific number demands for some kind of calculation that they have to perform. E.g. this could be something that happens mentally (e.g. count all the seedlings in the nursery), or something that you expect them to work out physically (a planting bed for potatoes measuring 2.8m x 1.2 m).
    • Map the specific measurement demands for something that they have to measure. Measurement here can be linear, area, volume, time, weight, mass or anything else that is practical and relevant.

That’s it… that’s usually enough for our purposes. You can always come back and focus again on a particular area of your course, training or work that needs development, but to get started and get basic idea of the course demands for your training or education programme just a basic look at the general demands as well as couple of specific samples is enough. Ok… off you go…!

Num Progs