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Teaching techniques and a severed desk - 18 November 2007

After two postponements due to intervening staff meetings and off site meetings, I finally held the training session entitled 'How to find construction teaching materials on the internet' on Friday afternoon.

The session began (after another impromptu staff meeting) at 4.30pm, 'only' an hour and a half after the planned 3.00pm start. I began by moving the array of desks into a more conducive 'board room' style arrangement, and made a general introduction to my role at the college. One young English and Russian languages teacher had joined the college on her first ever day of employment, the very same day, after I had been asked spontaneously to interview her, the previous day.

We began by brainstorming and discussing the teachers' favourite websites. We debated the uses of Mongolian, Russian, English and German languages for research on the web, and touched on a comparison of search websites, academic websites, and wikipedia, among others. There was some debate among the staff about the superiority of Russian language materials on the web over English language materials.

For analysis, I had selected as an illustrative example, a simple architecture lesson plan for children from http://about.architecture.com, and we looked at planning objectives, material needs, assessment, reference materials, adaptations and extensions.

The teachers protested that they were familiar with these aspects of lesson planning, although admitted to using predominantly 'chalk and talk' delivery methods. They wanted tailored materials for each of their specialisms - physics, mathematics, chemistry, language and literature, computing. It became clear to everyone that the process of sourcing lesson plan models from the thousands of websites available would be difficult to follow without very careful use of the English language. It also became clear that there were no universally applicable teaching support materials and that language would be a key to developing more active teaching techniques, given the 'resource-poor' environment here.

It was the culmination of my most 'interesting' week here to date, Wednesday being the first time I have ever arrived at work to find my desk severed in two. We had already been scheduled to move office, following the absence of any heating or lighting for the last few weeks, so the collapsed desk (resulting from the absence of a ladder for changing a light bulb) was removed in the process of relocating, and stripping and reinstalling the valued electrical and internet cabling. The new room is a great improvement, and hopefully will provide an opportunity for repairing the collapsing drawer unit and office chairs.

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