Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Informal Learning

As my devoted reader(s) will know, I have been studying Spanish for a few years now and have used a variety of means for improving my vocabulary, grammar, speaking etc. I have had one to one sessions with personal tutors, both face to face and using Skype (see I have attended cosy WEA classes and I have followed BBC online, CD and TV-based courses.

Last week our lovely WEA class in Nottingham came to an end as our teacher has returned to Argentina. So as a group we have come to the decision that we will carry on - meeting weekly, preparing exercises and practising together. We have hired ourselves a native Spanish speaking tutor and a room in a church hall and are combining our many resources - and cash - to continue making the learning happen. Our plan is to decide together what it is we want to learn or practice, find our own resources and rely on the Spanish speaking tutor as a resource to correct our grammar and pronunciation.

I am excited and a little nervous about what will happen so I will continue to blog about our experiment.

I also Tweeted this week about a site I had been directed to called This has the usual range of quite well done screen based language exercises but the real fun of it is in the interaction between students.

You can befriend others who are learning the same language as you - or who want to learn your native tongue - and the site provides a facility to text chat with one another and even to connect by video/audio link for live conversation.

As you progress through the exercises, you are asked to post your written answers and to correct those of other students who are studying your native tongue. In this way, work is corrected by a native speaker. Your activity is rewarded by "busuuberries" and your progress marked with little stars and diamonds.

I think it's a brilliant concept - social networking meets e-learning - and really good fun to get involved in. So if you have ever wanted to learn a language - give it a go!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

No tweets please, we're British health workers

This blog post pretty much sums up the experience I - and my NHS based students - have had in trying to explore social networking sites for learning, newtworking, team communication and even health promotion. I agree that the potential threats to a hospital's vital information systems are not to be taken lightly, but the draconian tone taken in the forbidding of such networking sites does really demonstrate how little actual experience and understanding there is of their potential benefits.....

see my previous post about NHS and social media - clearly some people are using it (officially that is) and to good effect

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Twitter

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Twitter

I really enjoyed this blog post linking Twitter with Malsow's Hierarchy of Needs. Twitter certainly fulfills certain belonging needs for me as a teleworker (see my previous post) and I admit to a spurious(?) increase in my self esteem when I discover I have been "listed", "retweeted" or "favourited"....

As an interesting follow through of this concept, you could think about how using Twitter with a work team might increase motivation....

Friday, 8 January 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.......

oh the weather outside IS frightful and has resulted in me spending an entire week marooned at home: too nervous of the wintry weather to venture onto the treacherous roads and even more treacherous pavements.

Has this affected my ability to do my job? Added to the several £billions lost in productivity during the cold snap? No! of course not... I am a teleworker!

This week I have:
  • followed up a marketing lead for a new post graduate course (by phone & email)
  • conducted an informal appraisal of a new member of the tutor team and provided him with a number of resources to support his teaching (phone and email)
  • checked with the team on progress with the marking of the programme's final module (Blackboard, phone, email)
  • held tutorials with a student (via Skype)
  • collaborated with colleagues on documentation for the validation of a new Module (email)
  • found out about a really interesting up and coming conference and booked onto it (via Twitter and Eventbrite)
  • organised some appointments for next week (Outlook calendar)
  • read the current edition of a great journal about e-learning (on line)
  • discovered a fantastic file transfer site (via postingon Twitter) and used it to send some huge files to a colleague whose email provider kept on rejecting them
  • taken part in a research study conducted by an academic based in Brazil (via Twitter and Googledocs)
  • started to write up the findings from some research of my own (conducted with distance learning students via Googledocs)
  • used the rest of the time to re-work the Virtual Teams module based on that feedback, students' assignments and a personal review of what has and hasn't worked this time.
  • taken part in many fun and thoughtful conversations on Twitter and through reading others' blogs

I have also been giving some thought to what the Virtual Leader should be focusing on in times of inclement weather. For the most part, it's the same as usual, but more so.

Making sure the team members are safe and well and not taking unnecessary risks - maybe even issuing some guidance about home working/travel safety and ensuring those who have to be out and about, because of the nature of their jobs, check in regularly.

Keeping in touch - not to check up that those stranded at home are being properly productive, but to discuss with them what they are able to do, what they could be catching up on, checking what support they might need in rearranging commitments, and even just being a friendly ear if they are going stir crazy after a few days stuck behind a wall of snow!

Even more importantly, if just one or two team members are stranded whilst others have made it into the team meeting, look at how you can involve those who have become temporarily disconnected - with teleconferences, Skype or even just an email to fill them in on what is happening. Encouraging team members to buddy up and chat on the phone to keep each other up to date is also a good idea: it's not just the boss who should be oiling the social wheels of the team but all members can share this responsibility.

The great thing about Yammer, Twitter, even Facebook contact with my colleagues this week is that it has given me a sense of continuing to be part of the work community and afforded a few classic "water cooler" moments where we share news and a joke. Continuing to feel included is important for teleworkers.

An "out of sight, out of mind" attitude is just plain lazy leadership, whatever the weather!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Motivation and New Years' Resolutions

Take a look at this blog for some ideas on motivating yourself and others......make your New Year's Resolutions work!