I came across Gliffy a few months ago. It is a low cost web based option for planning and designing layouts and flowcharts, etc. much like Visio.

Gliffy uses flash drag-and-drop techniques to place items on the canvas from a set of icons that cover a large range of topics. It is really easy to use and my students took to it quickly

The best function is that it allows collaboration between students. One student can produce a layout for a network for instance and another, once given access to it, can comment upon it or alter the design totally.

I’m using it for the M2 assignment of BTEC Unit 9 Computer Networks “design a networked solution to meet a particular situation with specific requirements” with the following scenario:

PressWork Bits Ltd. is a manufacturer of pressed parts for the automotive industry with offices around the country.

You have come highly recommended to them and they expect you to fulfil their needs.

The following details have been submitted:

•             The building are 25 metres apart and there is no direct link between them

•             Building one has a single floor and covers an area of 6250m2 and one side measures 125 metres.

o             Production taking up two thirds of the floor space

10 computers distributed evenly around the outside wall of the building

o             Maintenance and engineering taking up 10% of the floor space

5 computers

o             Stores and shipping taking up the remainder of the floor space

2 computers

•             The second building has a floor space of 2200 m2 and one side measures 110m

•             The ground floor is occupied by:

o             Reception (1 computer)

o             Sales and marketing (20 computers),

o             Purchasing (12 computers)

o             Catering and kitchens(1 computers)

•             The first floor is occupied by:

o             Personnel (10 computers) and

o             Research and development (12 computers)

o             Finance department (8 computers)

o             Managers (4 computers)

This scenario embeds functional skills maths revision too.

Gliffy can be found here.

Gliffy Example

Network plan produced by one of my learners

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Five skills required by new teachers

There is no definitive list of what skills a person needs to become a good teacher, but here are five suggestions:

1. Willingness to learn

People often come in to teaching thinking that they have a lot to teach and this is often the case, but there is also the flip side that you will also have a lot to learn. You may be an expert and renowned in your own field, but when you start teaching you are starting at the bottom again and to make a success you will need to learn new skills.

2. Knowledge and enthusiasm

I was once told that a good teacher can teach anything and I believe it to be true. But it is best to start with what you know well while you are learning how to teach. So your subject knowledge will be the foundation to build upon, and if you can be enthusiastic then others will become interested and you will have the learners on your side.

3. Interpersonal skills

It’s no good having the greatest knowledge of a subject if you cannot use a range of techniques to get that knowledge over. You will need to be able to (or learn to) address large and small classes, young and old, experienced and novice. You will need to negotiate and work well in a team as well as use your own initiative.

4. Organisation skills

When you are moving between subjects, levels, groups and classrooms it’s easy to lose track of where you are, never mind where the learners are. Tracking of your and the learners progress is key, your scheme of work will help here.

5. Sense of humour

This is perhaps the most important point. It isn’t always going to go your way. It isn’t always going to go to plan. At the end of the day you may be tearing your hair out, but a good teacher knows how to use humour to diffuse a situation, to make light of a difficult time and most of all know how to not take themselves too seriously!

What do you think? Would you like to add some?

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Topic Precedence

In a previous post I said that there are several ways to organise what is taught when. Sometimes it can be easiest to start with what you know well, this builds your confidence and allows you time to suss out the learners and develop your knowledge or materials that will be used with areas that you know less well.

With some subjects it may be necessary to teach easier fundamentals first, that will allow the building of deeper knowledge later. Usually there is a logical sequence, something like that which must be known followed by less important thing (must, should, could – this will come up in a post about lesson planning too). There may also be a need to understand the theory behind something before it can be done in practice, or vice versa.

But there are also external influences that may determine what you teach when, such as seasonal themes, local events and other real life events.

It is also important to bear in mind that the learners are on the journey with you. Ask them what they would like to learn and in what order, it may turn out that they already have a good grounding in a certain area so can jump straight in with more challenging topics.

Just remember that whatever order you decide to do things in make it logical. Nobody likes to be jumping about all over a subject getting snippets here and there. A logical approach will ensure that the learners can build upon their growing knowledge and that you can plan to assess at key points as necessary.

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Welcome to Teaching Kit!

I hope that over the coming weeks I will post useful guides for those in the classroom. Whether it is planning, delivering or reviewing learning I will address it here. If there are any aspects that you would like to look at then please comment here and I will plan them in. But i hope to include the wider community too, so if you have a technique or tip that works for you let us know.

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Scheme of work

Let’s start with the big picture. This is what will guide you through the rest of the year and time invested here will pay dividends later. First, what is the difference between a scheme of work and a lesson or session plan? A SOW looks into the future and gives a roadmap of what is to come, what you will do over the next term. A lesson or session plan is derived from your scheme of work and looks at what you will do over the next hour or so.

So, how do you construct one. Well all schemes of work have a few things in common. They are usually set out in columns.

  1. week, session number or date
  2. topic to be covered
  3. activies to be performed
  4. resources

That should be enough to get started with and to pass to anybody else that you are team teaching with or who needs to prepare resources, such as a technician.

Now, most schools and colleges go beyond this and add columns for how learning will be checked, functional skills that will be covered and any homework that may be set for instance. You will need to find the proforma for your institution and use that.

Now that we have the basics how do we decide what to teach? Well, that comes from the awarding body in the form of a syllabus. Take the syllabus and break it down into logical groups and decide what order you want to teach them in (this is called topic precedence and will be covered in a future post).

Most school and college years are split into roughly five 6 week blocks between half term holidays. The fifth is generally shorter though, so try not to put too much in here other than revision or exam prep. Otherwise divide your major topics over the other four. Remember to put in some time for catch up towards the end of each block, because external influences nearly always affect how smoothly the plan runs.

That brings me to the final point I want to make. The plan is just that, a plan. Changes will be needed to be made, what you thought would be easy to teach and learn may take longer, snow may cause classes to be cancelled and a thousand other influences will, try to thwart you! Don’t worry, revisit your plan, adjust time allocation and make notes on it – OFSTED love to see a working document!

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