Transferable Skills

I was reading The “Grumpy Old Teacher”‘s blog earlier today, talking about “ICT Across the Curriculum”, and it reminded me that I’d intended to post my “mapping” document for the blog project, lining up how I thought it covered the various standards the learners are working towards, including both IT and the Communications Key Skill.

So here it is — Blogging and Key Skills (PDF)

Or as a Word doc. Blogging and Key Skills (Word doc)

In a way we have almost the opposite problem to a school trying to incorporate ICT into other lessons — we’re primarily an IT training centre trying to keep ICT integral to the other things we have to deliver to our learners, like literacy, numeracy, personal development and groupwork skills!

The buzzword (buzzphrase?) is “transferable skills”, but to me that’s “ICT Across the Curriculum” by another name.

I do have equivalent mapping for using ICT to teach numeracy — unfortunately they’re still only available inside my head at present.  Must sit down with the syllabus and get around to writing those down.

Google Maps for Measuring, Metric, and Shape and Space.  Excel cell formatting for Decimals, Percentage & Fractions, Annotator for turning word problems into actual sums, CreateAGraph for data handling, the BBC Skillswise website for practically everything…

The Proof of the Pudding

We just had our first Key Skills verification and standardisation meeting since starting the blog project.

In general all was very positive.  The IV liked the work we’d done on the blogs and thought it a good use of IT and a bit different.

There were some issues with printing out, since by their nature blogs are designed to be looked at on-screen and never look as good printed out. Something like BlogPrinting might be a workaround for that, in conjunction with screenprints to show the design and layout aspects.

I found it a bit irritating that that was an issue, since all the current buzz is about “online portfolios” and so forth, but it’s hard to change overnight I suppose and we’ll continue to look for a usable “fudge” for now.

Trainee spelling and grammar was an issue but as trainers we were reluctant to moderate every post before displaying it, as we felt it took away a lot of the spontaneity and immediacy of blogging, which is sort of the point and a big part of the motivation.  Trainees are expected to correct errors using the edit function once they are identified however.

Most of us thought it was slightly harder to demonstrate level 2 skills in the blog, although graphs etc can be uploaded as images. Our IV also expressed a concern that since the blogs were worked on partly as a group the same topic could be used for both a level 1 and level 2 trainee, and clear distinction needs to be made between the levels.

As there is no specific guidance, we thought that compiling a list of what they considered “level 2 Features” of the blogging software would be useful. I think the “combining information” bit could be the same as the printed work — a graph, timeline, captioned images etc — the only difference is the need to upload it.

Other things we thought might distinguish between a “Level 1” and “Level 2” effort, were:

  • Text based embedded hyperlinks (e.g. linked text not just pasted web address)
  • Images with hyperlinks attached
  • Use of the “more tag” to split posts (so you get a “teaser” and click through to the longer article)
  • Categories & tags
  • The advanced paste features:
  • Paste From Word (converts tables and fancy formatting into something WordPress can cope with.)
  • Paste As Plain text
  • Remove Formatting
  • Styles
  • Insert Special Character
  • The AnswerLinks to insert hyperlinked definitions of technical terms (built in feature)
  • Passworded private posts.
  • Widgets
  • Custom Headers
  • Pages, and subpages

Is there any one else out there using blogs as part of Key Skills with other ideas?

We also thought that the groupwork elements of the blogging might generate good evidence for the Working With Others Key Skill if we ever find the time!

The next batch

I took a different approach with this latest group and used a full afternoon to cover all the basic tools of WordPress in one big hit.  The drawn out nature of showing them and having them try it out on the “Sandpit” last time, meant it was a long time before we actually got blogging and I wanted to avoid that this time around.   This worked quite well, and to my surprise hasn’t really led to the trainees needing a great deal more support.

The enthusiasm levels have been good, with several learners who were not keen to start with, really taking to it, and even asking if they can create another blog for their personal use.

Copyright issues have been integral this time, and I’ve only had to edit a few posts to remove unauthorised content.  I developed a one page “Copyright Crib Sheet” to lay down some ground rules.

The ICT Key Skills qualification, which we are using the blogging to contribute to, calls for learner to “combine information”, for example by annotating an image, and I’ve been exploring the use of online image editors such as Splashup and FotoFlexer (that last suggested by a learner!) to cover this.  I want to use our fledgling Moodle site to put up some notes on how to use these extra tools, as I’ll never have time to teach them all!

Also important to the Key Skills are the planning elements, and this was the first time I’d used the “How To grow a Blog” worksheets with the learners.  I had wondered about this, since I find the metaphor of a plant a good one, but wondered if my adult might find it a bit too child-like.  No one remarked on that aspect though, and the comments were reasonable.

The staff found them useful as evidence, though I have private doubts about whether the trainees themselves ever pay more than lip-service to “planning” their work!  It’s hard to make them see the advantages and we find the same issue with the Improve Own Learning Key Skill.  They’re far more product than process focussed — nature of adult learning I suppose, but at odds with my own inclination which is to experiment and try things out and think out other methods.

The commenting on each other’s blogs has also improved this time around and there’s some good back and forth going on.  One particularly interesting exchange occurred between a learner posting about immigration policy, and another who actually is an immigrant, their training course being done here in a second language.  Interesting expanding of horizons for several I think.

I tried to plan the groups around the learners I knew were regular absentees so no one group got hit too badly by having people missing, but the trainees have still noticed the problems when a key person — say the one individual who is the Admin, is away and they have to ask me to edit something instead.  Hopefully this will stand them in better stead in the workplace and appreciate the importance of attendance to group and team projects.

I wonder how much of the trainees confidence is down to the fact that I’m more confident this time around, having worked out some of the hiccups with the first group.  I’m looking forward to starting the next group, and will feel less put off by any initial disinterest, since this group have developed so well in spite of their initial doubts.