A bit on the side…

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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.

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What I did on World Book Night

Before you read on, be warned.  This blog post contains nothing relating to technology nor does it explicitly talk about education, though it perhaps skirts around both topics. 

 

Still there? Excellent.  I’ll get to it.

 

This year I decided to get involved in World Book Night, something I was aware of but had never really explored. Now, looking at the frequency of my blog posts makes me realise that I am, fundamentally, a lazy blogger. This is most ironic, as a lazy blogger is an un-read blogger. But I really don’t have the linguistic prowess to answer your question: what’s World Book Night? I ramble, digress, go off topic and can’t keep things simple. So here’s what the WBN website says:

 

“World Book Night is a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of passionate volunteers gift books in their communities to share their love of reading.

 

In 2012 World Book Night will be celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and USA on April 23.

 

In the UK, 20,000 passionate readers will gift 24 copies of one of their favourite books to encourage those who don’t regularly read to fall in love with reading. In addition World Book Night will be giving a further 620,000 books over the course of the year directly to the hardest to reach readers through prisons, care homes, hospitals, sheltered housing, homeless shelters, libraries and through other partner charities.

 

Take a minute to remember what it was that made you first fall in love with reading: the incredible passion you felt, and still feel, for books, for stories; the excited feeling you still get when you pick up a book that you just can’t wait to read and think about the places it will take you, the people you’ll meet and the joy you’ll get from reading it.

 

Now think about the millions of people who have never been on that journey or who, somewhere along the way, have forgotten how incredible it can be. Think about the power of putting a book in to their hands and saying ‚Äėthis one‚Äôs amazing, you have to read it‚Äô.

 

World Book Night reaches out to those who don’t regularly read by using passionate book lovers around the country to become reading ambassadors and to do just that within their communities, book by book, reader by reader, hand to hand, getting the whole country reading.

 

25 titles are specially chosen and printed in World Book Night editions. Givers apply for a particular book (they get a first, second and third choice) which they must commit to gift to those who don’t regularly read, to share and spread their love of reading. Givers collect their books from their local bookshops and libraries, putting the very heart of our reading communities at the very heart of World Book Night.

 

It is difficult to quantify the value of reading on people’s lives, especially given the shocking statistics in the UK that outlines that one person in six struggles to read and write. Poor skills compromise health and well-being, confidence and employability. World Book Night’s charitable mission is to advance the education of the public by assisting in the promotion of literacy and the celebration of books and reading by creating unique moments which focus attention on adult literacy. By focusing on the enjoyment and engagement of reading we aim to reach and inspire those who have never discovered the value or pleasure of reading.

 

Over half of adults of working age (56%) have literacy skills below the level of a good GCSE; 16% are at or below the level expected of an 11-year-old.1  The report Literacy: State of the Nation found that one in six people in the UK struggle with literacy; a quarter of young people do not recognise a link between reading and success in later life; and men and women with poor literacy skills are least likely to be in full-time employment at the age of thirty.

 

Statistics show that:

‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†22% of men and 30% of women with literacy below entry level 2 live in non-working households;

‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†41% of employers are concerned about their employees‚Äô basic literacy skills;

‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†63% of men and 75% of women with very low literacy skills have never received a promotion at work;

‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†Increased literacy rates improve the chances of using a PC at work from 48% to 65%;

‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†Individuals with poor basic skills are much more likely to report being ‚Äėnot at all‚Äô interested in politics (42% for men and 50% of women with poor basic skills compared with 17% for men and 21% for women with good basic skills);

‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†Women with low literacy skills are five times more likely than those with average or good literacy skills to be depressed.

 

This is at a time when adult engagement in literary activity in the UK is low. A 2005 Book Marketing Limited study showed that ‚Äė‚Äėa third of people have not bought a book in the previous 12 months and 34% of people never read.

 

Research into libraries’ use of reading for pleasure with adults with literacy needs establish that simple interventions such as World Book Night can make a real difference to people’s motivation to learn, as well as in developing their confidence and skills.

 

World Book Night are committed to reaching the hardest to reach potential readers. In 2011 we worked with Lemos and Crane to target prisons with a pilot programme which saw 7000 books delivered in to more than 90 prisons and young offenders institutes around the country. You can read a brief report on 2011’s prison programme here. Books are supplied not just for prisoners but also for prison staff and prisoners families so that shadow reading is possible, creating the opportunity for shared experience and understanding. In 2012 we’re substantially increasing our reach in to prisons with almost 70,000 books being delivered in to more than 110 prisons and young offenders institutes. We are also working with English PEN on a series of prison visits by writers and with Prison Reading Groups on close prisoner reading support.

 

April 23 is a symbolic date for world literature. It is both the birth and death day of Shakespeare, as well as the death day of Cervantes, the great Spanish novelist. It is in their honour that UNESCO appointed it the international day of the book and that we choose it to celebrate World Book Night. April 23rd also marks the city of Barcelona‚Äôs celebration of St George‚Äôs Day. St George is the patron saint of Catalonia as well as England and traditionally, to celebrate this day, Spanish gentlemen gave their ladies roses and the ladies returned the favour with a book. Considering the rich literary history of this day, it seemed more than fitting that April 23rd should be chosen as the day of celebrating reading and the giving of books.‚ÄĚ

 

So what’s not to love? If you’d like to find out more, and maybe think about becoming a giver next year, visit the WBN website here. Or take a look at what I did this year below. It was a fantastic experience and I’m really looking forward to struggling home under the weight of 24 books next year!

 

 MY WORLD BOOK NIGHT BY BEX FERRIDAY, AGE 41

 

STEP 1: Pick up my allocated books from St Austell Library.  Take them home, almost giving myself a hernia in the process.  (It’s a mile and a half from my house to the library and I do not drive.)

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STEP 2: Unpack books, then write my name, the location the books were picked up from and each book’s unique identifying number.  Sadly, my handwriting is just nasty, so I’m hoping people can read the numbers at the very least…otherwise there will be no way of tracking where the books have travelled to and how many people have read them.

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STEP 3: Give the books out to a variety of places Рthe first being the Learning Centre at Cornwall College’s St Austell campus…

STEP 2: Into town now with the rest of the books.  First stop, STAK: St Austell’s soup kitchen

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STEP 3: Second (and final) stop: the Go! St Austell Shopmobility Bookshop. Do check this link Рto find out more about the Shopmobility scheme and the bookshop.

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