Sunday, 24 October 2010

'How Far Now!' October is Black History Month.

Yes in the United Kingdom it is Black History Month so jerk chicken and rice with plaintain or jollof rice is being served in schools all over the country or they're experiencing the joy of African dance and drumming. Now I don't have documentary evidence of this, but if you do a search for 'black history month uk' you could easily get the impression that these are two of the favourite ways to celebrate the month.

When I was a young student we often bemoaned the fact that the only education we ever got that had any relevance to our personal and cultural identity focused on the fact that we were descended from people who were bought and sold like farm animals. Multiculturalism was something that came into schools by the time I was a mother. It meant that my children could now learn of people like Mary Seacole as well as Florence Nightingale or learn more about Diwali and Chinese New Year at school. The introduction of October as Black History Month at the time was like a natural progression and doesn't seem so unusual now. At first though I thought it wasn't for me as I'd taught myself Black History by reading autobiographies and biographies from Billie Holliday to Malcom X. I watched programmes like 'Eyes on the Prize' and anything related to African or Caribbean history and I repeated the phrase 'Black History is not just for one month'. Black History Month was for youngsters and people who didn't know any black history, in my opinion. Now I recognise that the month is for celebration and I think in celebrating we are also learning. In that sentiment I would like to think that educational institutions are doing more than serving Caribbean school lunches or enjoying a visit from a group of lively drummers and dancers from Nigeria. In my own place of work they are running a writing competition which is helping some teachers introduce the art of expression around a relevant topic such as the poems of Maya Angelou.

This year I found myself making a contribution to Black History Month quite by accident really as I never planned to do anything more than say 'Hello' to my Facebook family and friends in an African language. So my first status of October simply said, 'Jambo!' I didn't even check that it meant what I planned to say, taking it from memory of the few words of any African language I'd gathered in my youth studying people of African origin.

A few days later I said 'How now' which apparently means 'Hello' in Nigeria. This status sparked some good comments and even a correction as I was told by an African student it should read, 'How far now'. This activity was now quite enlightening  so I continued with 'Etisen' Twi (Ghana), 'Bonjour tout le monde' French (spoken in some form in some African and Caribbean countries) and 'Tena-istellen' Amharic (Ethiopia). By Friday of that first week I'd decided to keep using my status for Black History Month for the whole month but only on weekdays. I was not explicit about what I was doing until directly asked and the positive response encouraged me to continue. I decided to choose a different theme for each week.

After greetings in other languages here some links and videos I shared under their themes:

Men of Note

Nat King Cole
One of my favourite songs for the season sung by one of the first voices I ever loved. Nat King Cole was one of the first biographies I chose to read simply because I'd always loved to hear his voice when I was growing up listening to my parents records. People of my generation will also tell you how our parents loved to play Jim Reeves music and country and western singers like Frankie Laine which mystified us as children. My favourite singer of all those is still Nat King Cole.

Elijah J McCoy

I simply asked the question, 'What well known phrase is said to originate from this man?'
The answer: The Real McCoy'.This sparked a lot of comments and most of them with the right answer. I guess it was an easy one.

Ernie Barnes

Another question: Can anyone tell me whose album cover (name of singer and name of album) did this artist create?

This was a bit hard as no-one got it so I posted the answer a few hours later: Ernie Barnes' painting 'Sugar Shack' was featured on Marvin Gaye's album 'I Want You'. 

I was too young to be buying albums when this came out but I had a poster of the cover on my wall as a teenager and a few other pictures cut out of a magazine from this artist. In fact I have a couple of prints of Ernie Barnes to this day. Just love the movement in his work.

CLR James Library

Great news! During the second week in October news came out that made many local people happy. Since August we have been petitioning against a proposed name for a library which for more than 25 years is known as the CLR James Library. The council wanted to call it the Dalston Library. This news announced that the council has listened to the concerns of locals put forward by community group Black & Ethnic Minority Arts  (BEMA) and agreed to keep the name of a man regarded highly across all nationalities and of particular pride to African Caribbean peoples included in the new name of the library. Click on the links to read more about CLR James, an influential writer, activist and raconteur.

The Honourable Derek Walcott
A son of St Lucia and a Nobel Prize winner. Just because I admire him. Here is one of his poems:

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa, Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
"Waste no compassion on these separate dead!"
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?
Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilizations dawn
From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars
Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,
While he calls courage still that native dread
Of the white peace contracted by the dead.

Again brutish necessity wipes its hands
Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again
A waste of our compassion, as with Spain,
The gorilla wrestles with the superman.
I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
How can I turn from Africa and live?

Women of Note

Jean Binta Breeze
I met this woman briefly many years ago as she headlined a poetry evening I took part in. I watched her performance from backstage and realised that I had a long way to go before I could be as good as she. I remain in awe.
Here she is in performance a few years ago:

Mahalia Jackson

The video I used to feature this gospel great is from a movie which for me was all about the black woman and her daughter. The girl rejected her mother as she strove to pass herself off as white. Watching this movie as a young child made quite an impression on me. The funeral and the scene of the daughter's remorse always gets me. I've just recently started reading about the life of Mahalia and watching videos on YouTube of her performances.

Yaa Asantewaa
The first time I ever heard the name of Yaa Asantewaa, I was being taught by a Ghanaian friend about one of his nation's heroes. The fascinating thing for me was that it was a woman who fought for her people, a warrior queen was how I understood it then. I found some very good materials including a documentary and posted them to my page.

Sonia Lanaman
Don't ever hear her name mentioned anymore but Sonia Lanaman was one of my favourite athletes as a child. I cheered when she won and felt sad when she lost. I thought it time she got a mention.

Toni Morrison

Another Nobel Prize winner and one of my favourite authors. The first book I read by Toni Morrison was called 'The Bluest Eye'. Many others have been read since. I wish I could've had one of her books for study when I was a youngster instead of Chaucer or King Lear.

Here is a link to the Official Guide to Black History Month in the UK including an online magazine and teachers packs.

Got one more theme to choose for my Facebook statuses for the last week. Got any suggestions?

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Prezi! Zoom Over Slides.

This discovery came via an email from a colleague. He described the content of the link as a possible alternative to PowerPoint. What I discovered was a tool that allows the user to zoom in and out to engage and explain the subject being presented in a very flexible way. I noticed that it also allows embedding to websites and can be downloaded and stored.

Anyone who uses Moodle may know that to include a PowerPoint slideshow in your teaching and learning resources is not a simple task. In the past I've attempted to upload a .pps file  but this does not ensure it runs as a slideshow. You are taken to the edit window which is particularly annoying. Anything that is said to be an alternative to PowerPoint is something worth exploring especially if it would run better on the VLE or intranet.

Prezi was developed by Adam Somlai-Fischer and Peter Halacsy who felt that slides were limiting and wanted to be able to present and develop ideas in another way. I recommend you visit the the site and have a look at some 'prezis' available for public viewing. All prezis made by anyone signing up to the free option are made public.

Have a look at this video 'What is Prezi? - The official intro video' to get a better idea of how Prezi is so different from PowerPoint.

Before you go off to the Prezi site how about having a look at my first attempt at creating a prezi. Concentrating on inserting text, frames and paths, there are no pretty images. For someone who finds PowerPoint a doddle to use, learning to use prezi took some patience and perserverance. The Prezi Academy offers lessons for all stages from beginner to advanced.

Here is my first prezi made for the purpose of an online introduction to the learning centre and used on our college intranet and/or VLE. I decided to keep it very simple so there are no images or changes in font colours. Creating the paths and views was the trickiest part of the creating process. A number of attempts were needed to create a show with smooth movement from each point so you may feel it's a little overdone. I apologise if you experience any motion sickness.


Monday, 31 May 2010

A Learning Centre - A Facebook Page Proposal

After my last post there have been some developments which led in turn to a re-think. I said before that I was not sure how a learning resource centre could use Facebook for social learning. Most of my elearning work recently was focused on creating resources for workshops that are being made available on our intranet and the VLE. Promoting the use of the learning centre is generally focused on these internal pathways.

Now our college has joined social media with an account on Twitter and a page on Facebook, a new pathway is open and I can consider social learning for a learning resource centre. I am using this post to outline a general proposal that could bring a social media aspect to providing learning resources for students and staff in any education establishment.

Why use Facebook? Pros and Cons

  • No need to ask people to join - aimed at those already using Facebook regularly. This means they are already familiar with how the site works. I would guess using my own observations, that many students (and maybe some staff) log in to Facebook more often than they log in to the VLE.
  • Many people are using mobile gadgets to access Facebook on a daily basis therefore it would be easy for them to receive updates
  • It is easy to set up and maintain a profile and page (or group) for social learning - there are lots of online resources to demonstrate how if you need instructions.
  • Set up with clear goals and strategies to minimise privacy issues. Use of Facebook by educational establishments can include teaching strategies to encourage making good choices on what we share and what is private and what is public, how Facebook changes may affect your privacy and strategies that safeguard internet use on all social sites.
  • Privacy - yes it is the hot issue! Don't underestimate it's importance! In our roles of safeguarding it is very important for colleges, schools etc use of social media to be wary of possible problems and deal with them. I hope that the strategy chosen will protect the privacy of all individuals. If you can see a hole in it please comment and point it out.
  • Risk of upsetting some who use Facebook for fun and don't wish to mix their education or work with pleasure. You may not get the activity you expect - so don't assume participation, just work towards it.

    Whether you are a Facebook user or not, it is very useful to do some research and find out others views on how to use the site for the purpose of social learning. It can help to define your institutions aims and objectives. For this post I used resources posted previously in Facebook - A Tool for Social Learning. For your convenience here is a list some of the resources used:

    Facebook for Learning? Boleh! by Zaid Alsagoff

    How to Use Facebook for Social Learning by the Centre for Learning & Performance Technolgies, Jane Hart

    100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom by Online College

    I found a good example of how one university Learning Resource Centre uses Facebook Page:
    Queen Margaret University Learning Resource Centre

    The aims and objectives define the purpose and proposed use of a Facebook page for a learning resource centre. These are my suggestions:


    • to promote use of LRC for research, study, books etc.
    • to promote resources available including online resources
    • to direct staff and students to internal resources
    • provide updates on special displays and books available to loan
    • to easily share reviews, experiences via comments etc.
    • to notify about surveys, book sales, opening hours being changed
      • provide an alternative method of communicating with staff and students
      • engage and interact with users of the Learning Centre
      • reach more of the community who are already using Facebook
      Page not Group - why?
      I am focusing on creating a page because I believe it would serve the aims and objectives for the following reasons:
      • you have to join a group to become a member and if it is a closed group you must meet certain criteria to join
      • a page is easy to join as you simply have to like the page (click on the Like button)
      • page updates appear more readily in your news feed
      • pages allow you to add applications which would enhance the services and information offered
      • pages are the best option for a learning centre which supports staff and students
      The presentation by Zaid gives all the details in the options available for groups and pages on Facebook. A closed group would not be necessary and I don't think there will be any need to message all members. Both of these are features of Facebook groups. Pages allow you to use apps such as Notes which can be used as a blog or you can import your blog from another site. If you wish page status updates can be linked to Twitter using a suitable application.

      For this project I would recommend that a profile is created specifically to maintain the LRC page. This would help to maintain a professional profile reflecting the team behind the page rather than one individual. Profile image and name should be determined by discussion and agreement of staff involved in the service.

      When you like a page and comment on it you do not share any personal information other than your name and profile pic. As long as your profile is private the only thing you risk is inviting friend requests. I do not recommend staff accept friend requests from current students. This would be in line with safeguarding recommendations.

      No doubt you are aware of the latest disquiet around Facebook and privacy. Check your privacy settings especially after any changes. I would recommend doing this regularly regardless. Best practice would be to posting only links and items you don't mind anyone seeing.

      It is not the goal of this proposal to invite people to use Facebook but to reach those who are already using it.

      Facebook and Students

      Here is a link to a news item regarding the use of Facebook and how it helped to reduce 'students drop-outs' from the BBC News. Very useful to see positive practical experience of social media.

      I thank you for reading my proposal and hope you have some comments and thoughts to share especially if you have any concerns on how taking this path would affect support for learning and student progression. I look forward to hearing from you.

      Watch out for future developments.

      Friday, 30 April 2010

      Facebook - A Tool for Social Learning

      I found this resource via a tweet by @zaidlearn on Twitter. It is good to see what other educators are doing with social networking sites that are currently banned in some educational institutions. Twitter itself has already proven to be a great place to share links and news as well as share opinions, entertain and be entertained. I’ve learnt things too – recently I watched a webcast by @knitpurlgurl, one of the people I follow on Twitter and learnt how to crochet after many years of trying and failing. She is such a good teacher and she explained the steps so carefully and in great detail with support from her chat room of viewers. More colleges are joining Twitter although I am never sure if they have a strategy or are just doing it because they don't want to be left out.  But this post is not about Twitter it is about Facebook.

      Facebook is no longer banned for staff in our local community college but it currently is for students. Therefore it would be interesting to see if lecturers could be encouraged to demand that this ban be lifted on the basis of suggested use of Facebook for social learning. Not sure how it could be used in a learning resource centre so I am posting this for my own reference and a future resource. I am considered

      The presentation here has some good advice for preparing to use Facebook as a learning tool. The presentation has audio and some information for anyone who is not on Facebook and never used it.

      As well as the presentation this website also includes links to background reading.

      The Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies provides a free resource from the Social Learning Academy on How to Use Facebook for Social Learning.

      And from more elearning resource sites:

      100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom

      100 Awesome Facebook Apps for Productivity and Learning

      Monday, 18 January 2010

      Happy Birthday Dr. King

      Dr Martin Luther King Jr – today in the United States today is MLK Day. It is a good day to teach younger ones of the history or remind ourselves of his oratory and his work.

      Since 1986 Martin Luther King’s birthday is celebrated on the third Monday in January. Here is a collection of links (a mere sample) which express the essence of the man who is remembered not just in the United States but all over the world.

      Quotations of Martin Luther King

      More quotations

      History Learning site

      Nobel Prize for Peace

      Images of Martin Luther King

      BBC Learning Zone - Class Clips