Friday 29 January 2016

E-Learning in Africa

The BBC has recently reported that “E-Learning for Africa [is] held back by power shortage”.
Digital supplies in African regions without access to traditional teaching supplies could provide a cost effective approach to education in less economically developed nations.

“There are well-documented problems about access to education. The Africa Learning Barometer at the US-based Centre for Universal Education at Brookings says of the continent's nearly 128 million school-aged children, 17 million will never attend school.”

According to the report, the result of difficulties to access digital education has means that “education in Africa… has become a hotbed for e-learning.”

My Learning UK Ltd developed our “Expedition” software specifically to battle these issues. Our “black box” works in isolated locations and provides its own wireless network. The internet isn’t available, but learning resources can be shared with students and teachers can also receive students’ work back.

The box can even connect to 3G networks if they are available in the area. All the content required by these schools can already have been loaded into the VLE before they receive it. This would mean books, lesson plans, videos, images and more could be available in the middle of a desert if needs be!

Innovative approaches to resolving this issue are the reason the article by the BBC announced there is “Huge Potential” for e-learning in the region.

“There are 440 million under-16s on the African continent, and the vast majority of them aren't getting a quality education, because their schools are overcrowded, with under-trained teachers, and with little to no learning resources," said Nisha Ligon, chief executive of Tanzanian company Ubongo, which creates digital content.”

The article continues to support e-learning as natural solution to education distribution in Africa:
"E-learning gives us a great opportunity to supplement these kids' learning at a massive scale," says Ms Ligon, whose company's television output reaches over 1.5 million households in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ghana.

"We see e-learning as a huge opportunity to equalise the access to learning material for the majority of schools in Africa that are under-served financially or academically," said Nivi Mukherjee, president of education at Kenyan company BRCK.

The issue is, of course, the shortage of a power supply. The lack of internet in the region can be overcome, however for any e-learning technology to function- such as the “Expedition” box by My Learning UK Ltd-electricity must be provided.

African officials have been exploring solar power and Jesse Moore, head of Kenyan pay-as-you-go provider M-KOPA Solar, says "I would bet that in a decade's time, distributed solar power ends up as the primary power source for half the population,” which would allow for e-learning to become an integrated aspect of teaching in Africa.

Our “Expedition” product has been itching to deliver learning materials to schools in need all over the world. Let’s get powered up! 

Wednesday 27 January 2016

My Learning UK Ltd at Bett 2016

My Learning UK Ltd had a fantastic time at Bett 2016! There was so much to see and many of our fellow exhibitors were happy to show us their fantastic products and learn more about ours!

The highlight of our exhibition was our outstanding new stand, designed and built for us by Creative8. It was our “Big Blue Booth” and lit up our exhibitor location with its bright blue enthusiasm for VLE. We were able to provide free demos, discuss the needs of teachers and managers alike, as well as bring back some fantastic leads! 

My Learning UK was a major player this year. Many of those visiting our stand were uncertain who we were and what service we provide. After a demo with one of our experts and an opportunity to learn more about our successes however, many couldn’t believe our name had been unknown to them before.

We listened attentively to our visitors, who expressed their desire to use digital learning more but were also uncertain how best to act on these desires. We had our feature filled brochure to guide them through the VLE, as well as expert staff with further guidance and assurance. 

Our platform works for a whole host of educational levels and can be a great asset for corporate training. We found that many universities were keen to learn more about our VLE and were surprised by how versatile the platform is. Primary schools, which we had begun to believe were no longer interested in providing a VLE in their classrooms, approached us with enthusiasm and interest.
The atmosphere throughout was astounding, with teachers excited to learn new ways to implement and improve digital learning across their school curriculum. 

It was lovely to meet everyone who came along and My Learning UK Ltd is a VLE platform provider with a personal interest in the welfare of our schools.

We look forward to the coming year and can’t wait for Bett 2017!

Check out our Twitter page to see all of our Bett updates and shared images! Ada Lovelace even made an appearance. 

Monday 18 January 2016

Computer Games- A Teacher’s Friend or Foe?

Society has mixed feelings about the youth gaming culture. It’s been a topical debate in the news for decades and, whether we want to admit it or not, the debate is slowly growing in the education sector. Where, if at all, does gaming fit in to educating young people?

Science Daily claims “Game advocates are calling for a sweeping transformation of conventional education to replace traditional curricula with game-based instruction.”

The article goes on to list features which, according to researchers Richard E Mayer, could “substantially improve student performance”:
  • Putting words in conversational style rather than formal style
  • Putting words in spoken form rather than printed form
  • Adding prompts to explain key points in the game
  • Adding advice or explanations at key points in the game
  • Adding pregame activities that describe key components of the game
Mayer does, however, apply limitation to the ways in which games can improve cognitive development, "Overall, cognitive consequences research does not support claims for broad transfer of game playing to performance on cognitive skill tests," Mayer wrote. "That is, no sufficient evidence supports the claim that playing computer games can improve one's mind in general." (2016)

Are games something that should be encouraged in the classroom? Surely people of the post digital revolution generation spend enough time staring at screens and playing in the dark confines of bedrooms?

According to a study published by (NYU) New York University “Math video games can enhance students’ motivation to learn, but it may depend on how students play” (2013)

“We found support for claims that well-designed games can motivate students to learn less popular subjects, such as math, and that game-based learning can actually get students interested in the subject matter—and can broaden their focus beyond just collecting stars or points,” says Jan Plass, a professor in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. 

Considering the views of both Mayer and Plass, the conclusion we can come to is that games have a place in educating young people, but only in certain areas. We shouldn’t start chucking Jane Austen novels out of the window and replacing them with “The Darcy Party Game”, in which students simply play through literature problems via their digital device.

When teaching STEM subjects, however, there is a real place for games in learning. Platforms such as VLEs and app based learning on tablets or mobiles could become an excellent way to increase the number of teachers embracing this, essentially classic and yet, progressive learning technique. By integrating learning based games into the VLE or going direct to the game app, teachers could then lead students through a mosaic of learning styles which include and incorporate games. 

Friday 15 January 2016

Lesson Planning Taking Up All of Your Precious Time? Let Technology Help!

A recent Guardian article, “New Year resolutions made easy: six ways to improve lesson planning” hit the nail on the head when it comes to lesson planning, “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that planning, while a necessary part of teaching, can be a huge drain on teachers’ time.”

The article goes on to recommend a selection of true and trusted tricks to get a teacher their time back. You work a full day as it is! Why should you have to spend your nights buried under a mountain of paperwork and planning materials? I can still remember the long hours I spent during my TESOL training, researching and planning for the next morning, always sure there had to be an easier way!

Second on the list (we’ll let it go this time Guardian!) is technology. “Technology is your friend” the article cries in bold lettering.

“My planning is done electronically and I would certainly encourage others to do the same. I have all my lessons for the year in Outlook and can add notes to each entry. An app like iDoceo is also great for planning lessons, and can be backed up using Google Drive or other cloud services. If I need to plan in collaboration with colleagues, I use Google Drive to create shared documents which we can all contribute to.

Matt Britland is director of ICT at The Lady Eleanor Holles School.”

Technology really can be the asset teachers have needed for decades. Saving and editing existing lesson plans, from whichever tech device is your preference this season, could be your saving grace. The hours you could reclaim from the planning beast could amount to irreplaceable time with your own children, working on a personal interest or hobby, time simply to relax and have some ‘you time’.

Some of these apps have some limitations however, and only offer shared calendars and few real solutions. Many apps are stand alone and have limited functionality, so although they can do their single job very well it does limit the number of ways they can help you save time.

My Learning UK Ltd would (of course) recommend a VLE. It’s a safe hub where teachers can share materials, ideas, content and even just their thoughts. No need for a Google Drive, no need to log in and out of an application. Do it all from a single place.

We think it’s the better option because of the ease of access and the sharing capabilities a VLE can offer. Another great aspect of using VLE software is it's accessible from any device, you can begin planning your lesson on the train home (for those commuter educators) using a tablet, IPad or even your mobile.

The Guardian article also argues “Teach less, but more often”- “Each teacher, department and school will have their own constraints but a reasonable ambition might be to plan for each lesson to return to material taught in the previous lesson, and to do so again before the end of the school year.”

Keeping learning materials available on you VLE allows students to revisit past lessons, and for you to remind them that they’re there. As a university student one of the most helpful things available to me was the university’s single sign on learning space. I could access all of the learning materials that my lecturers had uploaded, not just from the current year of study, but from all previous years as well. I could return to old lectures that had once again become relevant, or even just enjoy reading over past class discussions and debates.

“Keep all your one place.”- Jack Askew teaches English at Teaching ESL Online.

Whether you’ve decided a VLE is the way to go, or you’re keeping things personal and planning alone, technology does offer a multitude of solutions. 

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Safety, Ethics and Communication with VLE Technology

Teaching with technology can be a frightening prospect. All the possibilities of a lesson gone wrong, teaching materials lost if your browser malfunctions, the prospect of the student outdoing the master with their IT knowledge.

We, who are in the business of developing VLEs for practical use, know only too well the roadblocks teachers face. Our training manager, Stephanie, often meets teachers who, prior to receiving her special care, point blank despair at IT in the classroom.

We think VLE could be the solution and not the problem.

Students need to learn early the risks of being online. A VLE can provide a safe environment for that. The platform is an online learning experience, however in a far more controlled environment. out the added pressure of the students actually being on the web. 

Designing and publishing their own profile on a VLE at an early age is a great reminder that information shared is information exposed. Whether it’s a Facebook update or an Instagram photo, children need to know that there are consequences. VLEs allow teachers to provide a guiding hand in this complex and ever expanding social arena.

In this month’s “Teach Primary” Miles Berry, Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader at the University of Roehampton, argued the importance of “ethics in computing”. Berry wrote “schools are required to promote pupil’s spiritual, moral and cultural development, and a greater focus on ethics in computing could do much to support this.” (p.109)

We agree, the further a student travels in education the greater the emphasis on ethical practices using IT. Referencing is a good example of this expectation. If a student is introducing information from the internet into their work, start encouraging referencing early on. Using a VLE means that any information downloaded to the platform can be easily referenced and any teachers using content such as YouTube videos can set an example in their own lessons. 

Plagiarism is stealing, so make sure students understand that when applying their computing skills to their lessons and they’ll never face the unfriendly plagiarism committee!

Professor Robert Winston, also in “Teach Primary”, argued “Technology must aid communication” (p.114). A VLE focuses on the school as a community. It allows for school wide blog distribution from a single sign on location. It also provides a safe space for students to share their work, teacher’s to shout about what they’re proud of this term and parents to engage with school activities. 

Communicating digitally is one of the main ways we communicate today, so let’s encourage safe and friendly practices in young people early on.

VLEs put communication in school back in the control of educators. The internet can be a large, imposing and scary place. It is also a fantastic embodiment of humanity at its most creative, experimental, communicative and intelligent. Learning needs to embrace the growing cyber world. A VLE can do this for you.

Monday 11 January 2016

Learning Platforms. Evolved.

Welcome to the My Learning UK Ltd blog of news!

We’re going through some incredibly exciting changes both as a company and as a Virtual Learning 
Platform provider.

We’re really excited to showcase our brand new logo, designs and innovations at Bett 2016Please join us at stand F410 for a conversation or just a quick look at all the wonderful things we have to offer your learning environment. 

An Evolving Learning Space

I’ll be logging on each week to blog about the most exciting and relevant issues regarding education and technology. I’m hoping that as this blog evolves, readers will find it a great place to share their views and discuss the issue of the week! Whether that be a technology development in education or a new approach to teaching IT in schools.

Virtual learning is a huge commodity in the education industry, however how many schools truly take advantage of it? As technology advances and the expectation of future employers’ increases, how can schools better prepare their students for their future careers using IT skills and training?

VLE’s provide a fantastic solution for introducing students to new integrated technologies. Concepts such as the Cloud, Apps, information sharing and staying safe when browsing the web become a simple business of everyday practice with a VLE in the classroom.

Students can learn about uploading files, the visibility of shared information and data, profile creation and personalisation, as well as more complex concepts such as coding and the risks of information hacking.

For teachers, the VLE lessens the workload. It’s a prevalent news story that teachers can’t find the time to do and be everything that is expected of them.

That’s what makes the VLE such an essential commodity.

Tests can be marked, lesson plans shared, files imported and integrated directly into your lessons. 

Quizzes can be uploaded and set, as well as reports created and managed, progress tracked, and homework set and monitored.

That’s what this news blog will be here to discuss. The importance of technology and digital education in today’s climate and, most importantly, how that’s affecting you.

Let’s share a thought or two and discover together how learning platforms have evolved!