One Little Thing

Siobhan White has the blended learning bug and explains how she has developed her teaching by trying one little thing…

So; when comes that point that you try something different?

For me, was it a new role, such as mine with Departmental LTQ Lead, or the realisation that this year I have been at GCU 20 years!! Whatever, over the past year I have tried “one little thing…”.   And soon one little thing has become a few little things!

I am not the most confident or able IT individual therefore have often shied away from technology, but learning and teaching is not all focussed on this area. Doing one little thing differently in any aspect of your teaching makes all the difference.

For your own subject area, get your students to go out and feel and touch and see and hear (and yes, even smell) the things happening in real life. Use resources that are out there already. Takes some time to find them but they are out there. Use the things that organisations are using to ‘educate’ their stakeholders. In my Year 3 module, Public Sector Accounting, I teach decision making by councils and resource allocation. What better way to do this by playing monopoly! You have a budget and you make spending decisions. South Lanarkshire devised a monopoly board with fake money to get their residents involved in decision making. Requesting a copy from them, I now use this with my Year 3 students in seminars – in one seminar alone, we covered decision-making, team-working, diplomacy, ethics and real-world problem solving.

Many councils do similar things interactively around budget setting and election time. In February this year we used the Derby City Council ‘budget simulator’ to plug in numbers and see the various effects on service provision. In March, when studying policy and financing of the NHS, the students used the King’s Fund ‘Election Tracker & Animated Manifesto’ to learn what the political parties priorities were for the NHS. We used ‘Padlet’ on the module as well, very simply, getting the students to post the public sector organisation they were going to relate their learning to through the course of the module. Visually appealing and enforced the principle that no two people could pick the same organisation.

In Year 4, the emphasis on the Public Sector module is on policy and we start the module by looking at government reform. How do you get students to engage with government reform and keep interested in it? Simple – I set up a Twitter account, started following relevant people/think tanks/policy-makers, got the students to follow me then told them to follow who I was following (need to make sure your twitter account doesn’t follow guilty pleasures!). Students get all the latest government reforms at their fingertips and associated government reports, as soon as they are published. No need to go researching and maybe miss something, and also useful for assessments and dissertations.

One extra little thing… This week I taught myself ‘Prezi’ – a morning of practice and I had a 15 minute presentation complete. PowerPoint now looks so boring. Unfortunately, the Council I was presenting it to didn’t have network access in the Committee room! So much for trying to be fancy.

So, make it your mission to try one little thing differently this year. Learning comes alive and becomes a success. And what is success? I like Emerson’s (19th century) definition of success:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little bit better, whether by a child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That is to have succeeded”.

And if one student remembers one little thing or breathes easier because of how I have taught them, then that is success.

Siobhan is a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Law, Economics, Accountancy & Risk. She specialises in the subject areas of public sector accounting, financial management, and auditing, having previously been employed as a government auditor. She is also actively involved in researching all of the above topics and has presented and published a range of papers in these areas, both in the UK and overseas. Siobhan is also a Chartered Public Finance Accountant, a Non-Executive Director of West of Scotland Housing Association, Chair of their Audit Committee, the past national examiner and marker for professional accountancy bodies, and sits in an advisory capacity to many public sector organisations. She has taught, and continues to teach, on a variety of courses and consultancy projects for other professional accountancy institutes and bodies, and for overseas Governments. In a recent appointment, Siobhan has been made Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee for South Ayrshire Council. Out-with her professional work, Siobhan is kept busy with four young children and an ongoing desire to learn the piano!