Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Online mentoring – how will it work?

March 11, 2010

THP mentor

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Teaching and mentoring is something that everyone does in varying degrees. I’ve been doing it full-time for the last decade, but now it’s to be done with a new intensity. My block-release vocational students (who require occasional support between classes) are being replaced by online trade contracting students – I need to explain how mentoring works.

Sharpening the axe.
It can be argued that teaching and mentoring online is no different to classroom teaching. “Just do what you do face-to-face, only online!” Sounds simple, right? Well… I’ve honed my technology skills during the past few years, using Gmail, Twitter, Flashmeeting, Flickr, Youtube… in fact, every Web 2.0 tool that I could play with, so I’m ready for the challenge. My EdTech friends from Australia, New Zealand and around the world have been a wonderful support network for me as we’ve tried out many communication tools together.

It’s a familiar situation to me, only in a different context – when I was trade contracting, I’d spend part of my non-working time searching hardware stores for tools to make my jobs easier, and cleaning and maintaining my gear. I decided that I’d never be like the timber-getter chopping at a tree with a blunt axe, who complains how there is never time to stop and sharpen the blade.

Cooperative learning – somewhere between Constructivism and Behaviourism.
Online learning is easy. It’s meant to be! That’s what I keep telling myself, but what if my students don’t find it so? Then I’ll need to help. They’ll be ranging widely in ages, experiences and expectations, and I can’t be all things to all people. Perhaps some might like to learn alone, but I’m expecting that these students will be rare. The majority will need support at a number of levels, and communication barriers that can be overcome in a face-to-face setting will only be intensified.

Success lies in encouraging peer interaction, collaboration and individual accountability. Students will be arranged into work groups so that individual success follows group success.

ePorfolio assessment.
Assessment by ePortfolio is not a new concept, but there is an opportunity to embed student assessment items in an industry portal website, open to examination by potential clients and fellow students. This gives a chance for students to show their work after the course is completed, and their enrolment ended.

Social benefits.
Studying at home means that less time is lost at work, as well as travelling to classes. Provided that students have a computer and an Internet connection, as well as webcam and microphone headset, then study times can be arranged around work and family schedules.

I’m planning to ask students to provide regular updates on their progress, as well as reflections on their learning, by podcast. The web service makes this easy – it’s literally takes just a phone call to upload a conversation to a website or blog.

Email timestamps.
It’s always difficult to get busy people together, so I’m planning to use data collated by observing email time stamps – meeting students when it suits them. Web services and will also be useful for planning meeting times.

Including team members.
My responsibility as a mentor extends beyond teaching and managing students. I will also help to coordinate the team of teachers delivering many subjects in Certificate IV, Diploma and Vocational Graduate Certificate.

The mentor is responsible for managing the team’s email inbox – this is an important communication tool for the group of delivery, design and administration staff.

Sked forum.
A ‘sked’ is a scheduled online meeting, and I’ll be starting and maintaining skeds for student groups, with a view to students claiming ownership of them. Skeds will be one of the main support tools in the course.

Induction, Blog updates and FAQs.
A page of answered Frequently Asked Questions is just one way to manage distracting emergency phone calls, recognising the fact that students often prefer the reassurance of human contact. A course induction will be undertaken during the first week, followed by friendly blog updates written to engage, encourage and redirect learners.

Virtual student lounge.
Students need a place to meet casually in between skeds, discussions, completing assessment tasks, work, family, life… just somewhere for a virtual cup of coffee and a chat. Perhaps even in Second Life?

Graduation ceremony.
Whew! After all that, a time for celebration – this will be a special event to thank learners for their efforts during the year, taking the time to mark their achievements.


Yammer B2B Social Graph

February 26, 2010

Yammer logo

Communities in Yammer is a new feature available 1st March 2010 following a Yammer redesign, where users can create a community to connect with partners, advisors, customers, parent company, suppliers and consultants.

The first phase of Yammer released in September 2008 enabled secure internal microblogging communications within a company. Presently, a company network is only available to users who share a work email domain. Phase 2 extends these networks to multiple partners associated with the company (using any email address) called “B2B Social Graph.”

The Yammer interface will have a new look as a result of the redesign, with new tabs so that users can easily create a community, switches between networks, and link networks. The desktop client will also look slightly different, and an iPhone app has been introduced.

The advantages of communities created in Yammer’s B2B Social Graph are that content is readily available to users, and that the content is secure. Communities are still available within in the “Freemium” pricing model set up in phase 1, that is, access is free, and ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ levels buy added features.

To date, the use of Yammer has been attractive due to its ease of use. The introduction of communities has been designed so that users don’t need advanced technical skills to operate them.

A risk that would need to be controlled is enabling “e-discovery” that is, the court-ordered hand-over of electronic communications. A data back-up would only be possible with a premium account.

My experience of using Yammer in a Government Department since September 2008 confirms it as an easy-to-use social communication tool, handy for keeping in touch in with friends at other workplaces and helpful for making new acquaintances – I like to visualise my social/work structures. I am keen to investigate how Yammer’s B2B Social Graph can strengthen interactions with my client groups.

VETteaching 2009 conference 26-7 May

May 24, 2009

Click Here to join me (via CoveritLive) at the VET teaching 2009 conference in Brisbane Tuesday-Wednesday 26-7 May 09.

Stonemasonry demonstration

January 26, 2009

Stonemasonry demonstration

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Australia Day 2009 at Samford Museum

A repository of Aussie culture, Samford Museum hosted their Australia Day celebration supported by the newly-formed Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Camp Mountain granite, quarried in the Samford district, was used to build Brisbane City Hall’s foundations.

A slideshow tells the story of traditional stone-working tools and techniques, and, inserted after slide #64, a Youtube video clip features a bit of the stonemasonry trade skills demonstration.

Seven Things…

December 28, 2008

Skip Zalneratis tagged me for a meme that’s going around.

Here are seven things about me that would help my Personal Learning Network friends know me better: 

  1. Simon is 186 cm long and 102kg wide.
  2. Simon’s paternal grandfather was a woolclasser, operating a shearing contracting and woolclassing business (Brown & Brown) from South Australia to the Gulf, and later, a sheep and cattle grazier in south west Queensland. Simon was determined to leave school at age 15 to become a woolclasser like him, but instead carried on to finish high school and then learn stonemasonry.
  3. Simon’s brother is also a TAFE teacher, who possibly inherited his passion for horticulture from their paternal great-grandfather Ambrose Neate 
  4. Simon’s maternal great-grandfather was an engineer or “iron turner” from Scotland who emigrated to Maryborough with his parents in the 1860s. When he was picking up supplies at the wharf for his parents’ hotel, he met his future wife who has just arrived from Ireland. She was waiting for her brother who had instead gone to the goldfields. Simon’s mother encouraged him to join the local pipe band and carry on the Scottish tradition.
  5. As pets, Simon prefers cats to dogs.
  6. Janet and Simon were married in Wynnum by his uncle, a Uniting Church minister.
  7. Simon’s parents passed to their children their loves of working hard, and reading books. His dad is a self-published author of two family history books, one of which is titled “A Strange and Distant Land : The Story of the Brown, Herdsman, Neate, Edwards, Giblett and Moss Families.

 To continue the meme, I’m tagging:

1 @cdltoz

2 @siralmo

3 @loonyhiker

4 @timholt

5 @catspyjamasnz

6 @twocrowsdown

7 @marragem

To participate, each person that is tagged should list seven things about themselves that would help their Personal Learning Network get to know them a little better.

They should then link back to this post by leaving a comment here, which links forward to their own update.

ANZAC Day 2008

April 26, 2008

ANZAC Day 2008

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Scotch Suit
An American friend once described my Scottish garb as a “Scotch Suit.” I’ve been wearing kilts since tagging along with the local pipes and drums when I was eleven years old way back in 1974. My piano teacher at the time suffered a serious brain injury in a motorcycle accident, so I continued my music studies by joining the Redcliffe Scottish Pipe Band. Belonging to a bagpipe band was not just a musical education opportunity, but also a study of Scottish culture in an Australian context.

Pipes and Drums
I’ve been a member of a few bands since then – (St Andrew’s, Tenterfield Highlanders, and Queensland Police) and played along with many more. During my twenty years with pipe bands performing, competing in band and solo competitions, and playing for Highland Dancing events, I enjoyed friendship with many people.

Ashgrove RSL ANZAC Day Commemoration committee
Twenty five years ago, I was asked by the Ashgrove RSL to “play the lament” at their ANZAC Day service. This meant providing bagpipe music during the wreath laying ceremony, between a hymn (Abide with Me) and the Last Post. This was a typical suburban Australian ANZAC Day commemoration, timed so that people could attend a dawn service at 04:28, return for the main local service at 08:00 and then travel to the city for the main march at 10:00.

Growth in attendance
The first Ashgrove ANZAC Day meetings that I attended were fairly low key: an army band leading the parade and providing the hymnal accompaniment, and army catafalque party honouring service people. I’ve watched community participation in the Ashgrove ANZAC Day service grow. I estimate that this year’s attendance was about 1000-1200 people.

My Ashgrove duties are simple: provide ten minutes’ music as the parade approaches, and play a lament during the wreath laying service. Initially, the funeral march “Flowers of the Forest” played once through was enough for the wreath laying ceremony. In successive years, I added a regimental slow march “Mist Covered Mountains” and an air “MacCrimmon’s Lament” as more people joined the wreath laying ceremony. I play my own version of Sheila Chandra’s “MacCrimmon’s Lament.”

61st Australian Infantry Battalion (AIF) the Queensland Cameron Highlanders
This year, I was asked to consider the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Queensland Cameron Highlanders. As it happens, my kilt is Cameron of Erracht tartan, an original Queensland Cameron Highlanders issue. I bought it from Scots College, Warwick when its band was upgrading equipment. At this time, it was still in its original condition, sewn into a roll. Guest of honour at Ashgrove this year was Lieutenant-Colonel Richard W Cameron DSO ED, who is 92 years of age. He addressed the meeting, seconded the meeting’s resolutions and, in the context of ANZAC sacrifice, spoke of his own extensive wartime experiences. Meeting with him after the service, he told me that many years ago, he had donated excess equipment to Scots College, Warwick including two original issue kilts that were sewn in rolls. I like to think that I am continuing his tradition whenever I put on my “Scotch Suit.”