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  • Writer's pictureJames Kieft

25 years - working in Further Education

I can’t believe where the time has gone. Earlier this month I passed 25 years ofworking in further education, I don’t think I would’ve ever believed when I started as a photography technician at the local college all those years ago that I’d still be working in further education after all that time.

So in this blog post I am going to reflect on my own development during that time, comment on how FE changed, and as you would expect if you have read my blog before consider how the use of technology changed and adapted.

No, don't worry I'm not going to go all Micheal Aspel with the old red book and share every single thing that has happened to me in the past 25 years. I don't think anyone would want to read that and I don't have the time to put that into words so here are some edited highlights!

As I have already mentioned, I first started in a further education as a photography technician, my role was to run the photographic studios at the college, maintaining the equipment, managing the booking of studios and supporting tutors during practical lessons and facilitating students whilst they’re working on the practical activities.

I did not realise at the time but this provided me with a great introduction to teaching. It allowed me to see firsthand how different tutors went about their delivery. It also enabled me to get a really great understanding of how to approach the planning of a lesson and making the most of the naturally occurring opportunities to embed the wider skills development opportunities and link theory to practice.

When it comes to supporting new teachers nowadays I always encourage them to get in and observe their peers as seeing how a variety of colleagues approach their delivery is so useful in helping their own development.

My initial teaching experience was teaching on evening and weekend classes,I think they present a different challenge from you 16 -18 year olds you normally get on full time courses.

My cohorts mainly consisted of professional people who attended after a day at work, they had high expectations. In lots of cases they were well read on the subject because it was a hobby and something they were passionate about. This required me to ensure there were lots of opportunities for them to contribute their knowledge during sessions and got me well practiced in planning lessons that actively involved the students,and remembering to always check for prior knowledge when working with a new cohort of students.

It also provided my first experience of how a student's prior experience of education can impact on how they engage in future, for some it was the first time that they've been back in a classroom since they left full time education. This required having to re-adjust their expectations of me their tutor in that I was not always going to stand at the front of the class and tell them information. Instead I would be involving and asking them to contribute to their own development .

The other benefit of teaching evening classes was it enabled me to familiarise myself with all of the steps required when setting up a new course, from gaining centre approval to going through assignment standardisation, writing of schemes of learning, internal and external validation. Being solely responsible for that evening class gave me the opportunity to dive in and take responsibility for each of those elements and I think on reflection it was such a huge learning opportunity which put me in good stead for I moved to teach full time.

Technology has always been a feature of my teaching, being dyslexic I was always slightly weary of writing on the board in case of spelling words incorrectly. There’s only so many times you can make a joke that the mistake was intentional. Initially that was more of a challenge having to make use of pre-written and checked acetates for use with an OHP. Thankfully that was not for too long and so it was followed by having to book out the only LCD projector from the library, most classrooms now have a projector installed in the ceiling.

Initially, my engagement with technology was to enable me to do my job from the use of electronic to do lists to help me keep organised, creating tracking sheets, presentations and handouts so I would have to remember lots of information and making use of text to speech apps such as Via Voice.

It was through that use of technology that I got into running sessions for staff, initially as a Blackboard and then Moodle champion, then as an advanced practitioner and that in turn led to me taking on the role of E-learning manager.

It was this role that was pivotal in further developing my passion for using technology to benefit teaching and learning. Being involved in the introduction of Google apps at the college, highlighted the power of the browser and reinforced the idea that you were no longer tied to using proprietary installed apps.

This gave teachers an opportunity to experiment with a range of apps to see how they could be used to benefit pedagogy and introduced the idea that the technology could be accessed at any and any place through a wide range of devices such as tablets and mobile phones and not just traditional PC’s.

People ask how I’ve managed to maintain a career of 25 years in Further Education and the first reason is the staff, whether that is my immediate colleagues or those of the wider community. Their support and willingness to share has helped me to develop and continues to inspire me.

The idea for my edtech blog came from seeing another FE practitioner who was using a blog to share his ideas and example with colleagues. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, my blog and more recently my YouTube have enabled me to continue to grow my knowledge and network and provided me with a wealth of opportunities to connect with educational professionals across the globe.

Another colleague introduced me to to Twitter and #UKFEchat and this has been a great source of ideas and development.

Finally and most importantly like lots of teachers it has been hugely rewarding to watch my students grow in confidence from the slightly nervous 16-year-old who joins you straight from school to the 18-year-old or even 20-year-old who leaves having successfully completed their qualification and ready to move on to the next chapter.

Even though I don’t teach students so much now I still get the same sense of satisfaction seeing colleagues develop during their careers with us, something I take great great pleasure from.

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