http://weafish.wordpress.com - Bernie Kennedy writes about literacy/numeracy, storytelling, music and a numer of diverse topics in this lively and thought-provoking blog.
http://maggysimms.blogspot.com - If it's ideas you're after, as well as creative approaches to learning and teaching, Maggie Simms' blog is an excellent place to visit.
http://diaryofaproject.com - A highly visual and entertaining blog by Elaine Hutchings, who documents her work with tutors and students on WEA projects as well as being out and about in the region.
http://weaeducation.typepad.co.uk - Peter Templeton has had a blog longer than most in the WEA, and he is also quite prolific. Vital for anybody interested in the WEA and its role in Adult Education.
http://annwalkerwea.wordpress.com - Anne Walker is the WEA’s Director for Education and she set this blog up “as a space to encourage thinking about matters relating to adult education especially in the Workers’ Educational Association.” Anne is also a very active social media enthusiast.
http://pcaldwell.wordpress.com - This lively blog by Pete Caldwell critical addresses a broad range of issues regarding adult education. It also explores Pete's other interests such as mountain-walking.
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Holmes Chapel Lip Reading Class takes place every Thursday afternoon at St Margaret’s Church Hall, Holmes Chapel. The class is tutored by Mrs Julie Norman and has a regular attendance of some 15 people, all with various hearing difficulties.
In early 2011 Julie informed the class of funding difficulties being experienced by the WEA to maintain the classes and a nationwide campaign to have Lip-Reading Classes upgraded from Recreational to Educational status. After some discussion it was suggested that it might be a good idea to invite the newly elected Member of Parliament for Congleton District (which includes Holmes Chapel), Mrs Fiona Bruce (not the one on the telly), to one of the classes in order to gain her support on the funding issue.
A letter was drafted explaining the circumstances and inviting her to attend one of the classes and sent to her at the House of Commons.
A reply was received from Mrs Bruce, accepting the invitation, with a suggested date of 25th March 2011. This date was quickly confirmed with the group members with a note that only those with a doctor’s note would be allowed absent.
Mrs Bruce did attend the class and showed great interest. Julie explained the funding issue to her and members explained the difficulties deafness impacts upon day-to-day living. One interesting point Mrs Bruce made was that she is a member of the Parliamentary Committee for the Deaf, therefore a good person to have on side.
A final note to members of other groups is; do not be afraid of getting local Councillors - and indeed MPs – involved and aware of such issues. One day they will want your vote.
by John Brown (WEA North West student).
Please Note that Fiona Bruce MPs visit was covered by the local press (see picture). To read the article please click on the image and then print out (it is displayed on its side due to its shape).
I've been heartened by the discussion that has ensued as a result of my essay on a New Policy Approach for Our Education Work in the WEA following the discussion of it in Henry Tam's blog Question the Powerful.
I and other colleagues have been party to a range of discussions which see the debate and the actions that stem from it as part of a renewal of the WEA's social purpose. I was part of an inspiring discussion in the WEA's senior management team the other day where there was a clear direction towards ensuring that our courses had "bite" as well as interest, that they helped to leverage change in communities as well as individuals. I was told that there was also good discussion and appreciation of the examples of courses following the critical action approach at the Association Committee, the WEA's senior representative body. There is growing feedback and interest within our wider membership and outside the WEA as other adult educators begin to discuss the ideas.
Henry Tam cited the example of R.H. Tawney, former WEA president and distinguished British Social and Economic Historian in his blog and it pushed me to go and re-read one of his pieces. I downloaded Tawney's Acquisitive Society published in 1920 and I am struck by the quality of his analysis. It could have been written yesterday in the light of the most recent global banking crisis, rather than as it was nearly 100 years ago. He makes a cogent case for subverting economic interests to the needs of life and society and recognises the dangers of turning this the other way round. Try reading it yourself (Click the link above) to see why we need serious analysis of our world if we are to articulate meaningful proposals for changing it.
Providing that analysis through adult education was a role that the WEA tried to develop through Tawney's teaching and leadership all those years ago. It is a role that we need to fulfill once again today.
One the most rewarding experiences a tutor can have is for a group of learners to get involved in a really good conversation. A discussion, one that develops and flows, maybe with a suggestion here or a question there to provoke further thought or move the group in a particular direction…….and then, your session time is up, people have to catch buses and the moment has passed.
But it needn’t pass, because you can extend your group’s involvement with a learning topic by using an online forum. There are two immediate advantages – the conversation can continue without people having to be physically together in one space, and people can have time to reflect on their own contributions and those of the rest of the group.
An online forum also shares the ‘confessional’ element. There are many learners who don’t want to open up in real time, in front of people. The forum gives these less assertive people group airtime in a way that is more comfortable and which can put them at greater ease for contributing in real time in a future session.
There are many ways available to tutors who want to add an online forum to a course. WEA provide forums as part of their website. Facebook, Blogger and Google groups are all free, and provide very flexible ways of allowing a group to interact online.
This is not to dismiss the digital divide or the need for forum users to have minimum literacy levels. Tutors using the internet need to apply safeguarding awareness. And it’s essential that tutors apply technology intelligently to their own group needs – definitely not one solution to fit all.
But lastly, with Ofsted promising to visit WEA in 2012, I’d like to suggest a case for online forums being yet one more area in which tutors can demonstrate learning in action, in an a very rich and yet astoundingly cost-effective way.
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