A bit on the side…

51ENCRCE3FLThat got your attention, eh? ūüėČ

I’m going to start this post by travelling back in¬†time to about 20¬†years ago. Here, at the tender age of 27,¬†my career in education started and I became an adult literacy tutor.

I bloody loved it, because everything I had been immersed in to that point had been about words and language. And yes, we take it for granted that parents and school teachers will teach children how to read, but there have always been adults who, for one reason or another, have fallen through the net, and it was them that I wanted to reach out to.

As my career evolved, it moved away from adult literacy towards teacher training, then away from teacher training¬†into Technology Enhanced Learning ¬†and BOOM! – here I am, your friendly neighbourhood Learning Technology Manager, who is still all about words and language, but who now spends her daylight hours being more about HTML5 and SCORMs and flipping the blended learning MOOC…

…the thing is, as much as I love the world of technology, I still hanker for those days of adult literacy and burbling on about how getting to grips with¬†language makes life just so much easier¬†and opens so many¬†possibilities (often literally as well as metaphorically). So it’s with a Ric Flair-style WOOOOOOO!¬†I can announce that I have made a brief return to the world of adult literacy by way of an on-the-side freelance gig that has made me punch the air with glee.

Take a look at this:

So here’s a situation where refugees and indigenous¬†people are living¬†and working side by side¬†through circumstance rather than choice. This has lead¬†to frustration and confusion from both groups, not helped by the fact that¬†the number¬†of international languages being spoken across the board is massive – and the blocks to communication this has thrown¬†up seems almost insurmountable. It makes sense then, to agree to use a lingua franca, and in this instance it has been agreed that this will be English.

This is where the Avallain Foundation comes in. The foundation wants to focus on people who have been left behind because of¬†emergency and change, and they firmly believe that education is the only constant variable that can be the key to going back to society, the community or the labour market; something I’m very much in agreement with. They are also very aware that education isn’t limited to the classroom and that¬†new technologies and the internet enable access to lifelong learning at a very broad scale.

So they (we) are developing adult literacy and numeracy curricula at 3 levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced – to be delivered using a blended learning format. The content is embedded in the stuff they need to know – so it’s all written around food hygiene, healthy living, disease prevention, computers and the internet and business and commerce. And that’s not stuff that the foundation decided that they need to know – ¬†they actually went to Kakuma and they talked to the refugee and indigenous populations¬†to find out what the¬†potential students actually wanted.

What’s great is that I’m coming¬†at this from two angles – I’m writing the level 3 literacy curriculum, but I’m also learning how to use Avallain’s in-house e-learning authoring tool to develop¬†the online content¬†based around it.

This has been the first time since my teaching days¬†that I have been involved in the whole process; my current day job means that subject specialists give me content that I go on to¬†develop electronically. I’d forgotten how much deeper the relationship with content and with the final electronic product goes when you are involved from the¬†jotting-the-theoretical-content-down-on-the-back-of-a-fag-packet stage right through to the beta testing the electronic resource stage.

I wonder whether this is the subconscious reason why some academic staff don’t engage with e-learning at all – because, on some level, they don’t want to feel the disconnect that comes when they¬†hand their¬†content (their ‘knowledge’) over to someone who doesn’t understand the subject area, but is going to go on to develop that knowledge into¬†something that they,¬†as the subject specialists, don’t feel they¬†have much ownership of. ¬†I certainly feel as if I¬†have done a much more immersive and ‘well-rounded’ piece of work if I write the content from a¬†subject specialist perspective, and then go on to develop that content using my learning technology skills.

Developing these curricula is a wonderful, fulfilling experience Рbut it has certainly given me much pause for thought.