Blog: October 2016

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Why I recommend the Award in Education and Training – even if you don’t teach

 NEC team member Carly (far right) with fellow staff
Above: NEC team member Carly (far right) with fellow staff

Today’s blog is written by NEC team member Carly.

Like many people, I’m guilty of thinking I haven’t got time to study. There always seems to be something that comes up. Maybe it’s busy in the office, or I’ve got too much to do at home – I can always find an excuse to procrastinate when it comes to doing a new course.

Working at NEC though, it’s impossible not to be inspired to fit learning into your life. When you see a student that has a full-time job and is a single mother finishing an A level, or someone serving in the armed forces, managing to fit in a GCSE while on deployment overseas, you can’t help but realise that you can do it too – if you want to.

When the opportunity came up to be the guinea pig on the new Award in Education and Training course I decided to put the procrastination days behind me and go for it!

I’m not a teacher nor do I plan on becoming one, so why this course?

The Award in Education and Training is designed for anyone with training responsibilities. That may well be as an adult learning tutor in a college or training centre, or in the workplace or voluntary organisation.

As a Sales and Marketing Manager, my role involves training colleagues on new courses, best practice and new procedures. I also have to present to groups on a regular basis. This course was my way of improving those skills and bringing some more structure into my preparation for such tasks.

I found the course materials easy to access through learn@nec – NEC’s virtual learning environment. Being online meant I could do some study on my lunch break and some at home – without having to carry lots of paperwork around. I think of myself as a ‘scribbler’ – I like to study with a pen in my hand so I can make notes on the course materials as I go along. I could even print out the online course materials – so I ended up with the best of both worlds.

I did get the recommended textbook which I would agree is extremely useful when studying this course. I chose the e-book so that I could make use of my time on the train to and from work by reading it on my Kindle.

At NEC we talk a lot about taking the ‘distance’ out of distance learning and the forums on learn@nec are a really good example of how technology makes this possible. A great way to interact with other people doing the course as well as speaking to the course tutors. It was really easy to get in touch with my tutor when I needed her. She gave me support and encouragement when I needed it and the feedback on my work really helped me to make the most of the opportunity.

For me, the microteach session was a particular highlight. I was slightly nervous meeting a group of people I hadn’t met before and delivering a session to them, but because I had already got to know my tutor I didn’t feel alone.

At the microteach session you not only deliver your own session, but participate and observe others. In the space of one day I learned how to do a sudoku puzzle, make a lavender scented cushion, do CPR on a baby and speak a few phrases of Mandarin. It was excellent!

All in all, I’m really glad I made the effort to fit this course in and I would encourage anyone to do the same. Not only do I have a new set of skills that make me better in my job and a recognised qualification, but I now have the confidence to take on new challenges – not to mention a new found love of sudoku puzzles!

If you want to find out more about the Level 3 Award in Education and Training with NEC, you can see full details on the course page.
 

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Why I love Biology


Photo credit: M Pinarci DNA strand via photopin (license)

For Biology Week, we thought we’d feature our Biology Tutor – Josie Briggs who writes about how fascinating Biology is and why she loves it so much.

Biology is inherently fascinating. From a very young age I have always loved reading and learning about science. Biology is unique because of the complexity of living things and how they interact with each other and the environment. It's intriguing to think that many rocks and minerals on Earth originated from living things. It is well known that chalk and limestone are the remains of small aquatic creatures – especially shellfish, which died and fell onto the seabed and were buried and pressurised to turn them into rock. Also, marble is metamorphosed limestone or chalk which has been subjected to high temperatures and pressures. Less well known is that flints began as sponges. If it wasn't for living things, the mineralogy and geology of Earth would be completely different.

When you look at a single cell under a microscope or in a micrograph, remember that this cell is awesomely complex. Nessa Carey's book 'The Epigenetics Revolution' describes how genes are activated and deactivated to cause cells to become specialised. Biologists have found that some of these epigenetic changes may be passed even to the fourth and fifth generations. This means that some behaviour or living conditions experienced by your great great grandparents may be affecting the way you are today.

I've now started on her second book, 'Junk DNA', and biologists are finding that more and more of the non-protein coding bits of DNA have important functions, and a mutation in 'junk' DNA may cause a devastating inherited disease. Fascinating, and I'll put a review on the forums when I've finished it.

A student once asked me if we knew everything about cells and I replied no, we know almost nothing. I think there is a lot more to discover about biology and I like to keep an eye on the scientific news to learn about the latest findings.

If, like Josie, you’re fascinated by Biology, why not find out about our A level and IGCSE science courses? You can even download a free sample to give you a taste of what it’s like to study in depth, or simply to learn more from at your leisure.
 

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Why is maths so important at GCSE level?

Silver laptop on a wooden desk, next to a pen resting on an open notebook with notes written inside the pages

This week, Unionlearn have been promoting the benefits of studying maths with their Maths Workout Week. If you’ve missed it you can catch-up with the action on social media with #ULmathsworkout.

As part of the campaign they have featured a series of blogs about maths from a variety of perspectives. Today’s contribution is from NEC maths tutor Sally, who talks about her love of maths and why it’s so important at GCSE level – head over to the Unionlearn website to read more.

NEC and Unionlearn work together to provide learning opportunities to union members and union learning representatives. Some benefits of the Unionlearn partnership include a 10% discount for union members on all NEC courses and free taster courses exclusive to union members. Find out more about the partnership here.
 

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

A round-up of highlights from World Space Week 2016

 NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist via photopin
Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist via photopin (license)

World Space Week takes place every year – encouraging everyone to “celebrate, educate and inspire” people about space, science and technology. There is always a theme to help focus on something specific – this year’s theme was “Remote sensing: Enabling our future”. If you missed World Space Week you don’t need to worry – you can read about the events that took place on the World Space Week website.

Drawing from this year’s theme, one of the highlights was “remote-sensing: enabling our future” which reflects Inmarsat’s focus on developing satellite-enabled applications to power the “internet of all things”. Phil Myers – head of Innovation at Inmarsat published a blog about how it’s shaping our future – farmers can track their cows with this latest technology. If you’re interested in seeing how it can help, check out their blog.

Another highlight was when former NASA Astronaut – Dr. Leroy Chiao visited the Discovery Centre where he met with the next generation of space explorers (now called the Mars generation) to inspire them to become Astronauts.

What qualifications do I need for a career in the space industry?

The space industry is a fast growing one, with more and more careers emerging all of the time. From an Astrobiologist to a Space Engineer, a career in this industry could be fascinating and hugely rewarding. But what do you need to start your career?

There are some qualifications that can help including; A level Physics and A level Maths. You will undoubtedly be expected to use mathematics, and a good grounding in physics will serve you well and be essential for most careers in this field. If you’re not quite ready for an A level yet, why not think about a GCSE or IGCSE course? NEC offer IGCSE’s in both physics and maths. If you’d like to learn more about the range of jobs available in the space industry, you can find out what jobs are on offer by visiting the Space Careers Website.

NEC’s A level Physics course is one of our new Gold Star A levels which features many benefits for students. Designed to help you fit study in around your lifestyle and giving you the best possible chance of success. These courses are delivered online through learn@nec where you have access to all of your course materials. Our range of resources such as; videos, a free e-book and online quizzes make the course interactive for you to enjoy and benefit from your studying. Once you’ve enrolled you’ll be assigned a personal tutor who will provide you with support and mark your assignments for you.

The course also has a section about space which includes the following topics:

  • How far is it to the stars
  • The life cycle of stars
  • Stellar fusion
  • The Big Bang theory and the expanding Universe
  • How will it all end?


So if this World Space Week has inspired you, why not start here?

For full information about our courses please browse our website, or contact us and speak to our friendly Course Advice Team.
 

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Friday, 07 October 2016

Taking the stigma out of dyslexia by raising awareness

In support of Dyslexia Awareness Week, we thought we'd highlight the features available on NEC courses that can help support our students with dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which affects the person’s ability to read, write and spell – around 1 in 10 people are affected in the UK. When somoene with dyslexia reads a book or a bit of text, it may seem like the words are moving around on the page. When someone with dyslexia writes, they may write their d’s as b’s and b’s as d’s and so on. It can also be hard for the person experiencing difficulties to explain to others what they’re struggling with.

How can dyslexia affect you?
- It affects your ability to read, write and spell.
You may struggle with the sounds of words.
Can affect your short-term memory.
Sometimes problems with maths and co-ordination can go alongside dyslexia.
Dyslexia can be mild or severe.

How can NEC help if you have dyslexia?
Students who enrol with us have access to their course materials online via our learn@nec platform. There is an accessibility bar at the top of the page which you can set to appear via the Course Tools. The Course Tools can be found at the end of the Contents list of your course in learn@nec. Various options are available to help whilst you're studying, for example you can change the background colour to one that you feel more comfortable with when you read text.

Here’s an example of what one of our courses looks like with a yellow overlay:

You can also change the text size, type of font and colour. You can even hear the text read aloud by clicking on the speaker icon. So what are you waiting for? Have a play around with the accessibility features to create your ideal learning environment.

If you sit your exams at one of our partnership exam centres, we can help you with exam access arrangements – this might include providing extra time or a scribe. If you do need additional help with your exams let us know as early as possible and we can advise you what supporting evidence of your dyslexia you will need to support your exam entry.

One of our partnership exam centres works in collaboration with specialists (part of AMBDA – British Dyslexia Association) who can offer tests for diagnosing dyslexia.

If you, your child, or someone you know has dyslexia, remember that support is available. Having a learning difficulty isn’t a test of intelligence – people with dyslexia are more than capable, they might just find certain things more difficult than other people do. Here are some useful links where you can find out more information:


If you’re looking to study via distance-learning, all of our courses have accessibility features to support people with dyslexia. You can find out more on our website.
 

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Thursday, 06 October 2016

Tweet a poem for National Poetry Day

 miss.libertine Prose. via photopin
Photo credit: miss.libertine Prose. via photopin (license)

In today’s NEC Blog, English tutor Kathryn writes about poetry as part of our celebrations for National Poetry Day 2016.

'What's the point in poetry?' I hear my students groan as I hand out this year's GCSE poetry anthology. Yet by the end of the course students most often cite poetry as being their favourite literary genre.

Perhaps this is because, in the words of the American Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 'Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everybody'. Or maybe it's simply because poems are relatively short, making it easier to squeeze them into our busy lives (which is why Poems on the Underground has been so successful since its launch in 1986). One thing for certain is that by making words sing from the page, poetry illuminates the world with a startling intensity that helps us see beneath the surface of things often in a matter of moments.

As this year's theme for National Poetry Day is 'messages', we thought it would be fitting to invite you to tweet your own poem or a favourite quotation from a poem in 140 characters or fewer to staff and students at NEC. You can interpret the theme in any way you wish.

If you would like to write your own poem, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • You could write a message to or from: outer space; an animal; a historical figure; a lover; a traveller; a relative, a friend or person you know; a person asking for help; an inanimate object; somebody who has died/not yet been born; an older/younger you.
  • You could write about the different ways in which we have communicated through time or about an important message you sent or received in your life.
  • You could write a poem by yourself or as a group. It can be about an imagined experience or about real life; funny or serious.
  • It can be in free verse (a poem with no particular form, rhyme or rhythm) or you could have a go at writing in a more structured form such as a Haiku (which traditionally contains 3 lines of 5,7 and 5 syllables) or a short limerick.


Here's an example of a poem in free verse written with my young nieces early one morning as we waited for everybody else to wake up in our holiday apartment:

With the crunch of cornflakes/the wink of the sun/and the grumpy, slumpy slippers of the grown ups/the day tells us it's morning. (132 characters)

And here's an example of a haiku that took shape as I doused calamine lotion on my children's chicken pox:

The skin's Braille erupts/White blood cells win the battle:/Nature's miracle (74 characters)

You can compose poetry on a bus, in the bath or in a dentist's waiting room, so join in the celebration on National Poetry Day 2016 and get tweeting!

Here are some more contributions from NEC staff:

Favourite quotations

"'Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light' (Dylan Thomas). I love Thomas's passionate plea to approach the final stage of life with gusto and tenacity. It brings to mind WW2 veteran Bernard Jordan who made the news last year when he escaped from his nursing home and made his way to France to attend the 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-day landings. As an English teacher I also get rather excited about the masterful way in which Thomas moulds language into a villanelle - one of the most complex poetic forms."
 — Kathryn, English tutor

"Rudyard Kipling's 'My Boy Jack', spoken by David Haig (Kipling) as an aside at the close of the Daniel Radcliffe (Jack Kipling) movie. A tearjerker of course. Weepiest moment since Funeral 'Blues (Stop All the Clocks)' in Four Weddings."
 — Daniel, Senior Course Adviser

"I have a weakness for slam poetry and spoken word. My favourite is probably either 'Shrinking Women' by Lily Myers or 'Pretty' by Katie Makkai. It was those or Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 27' if we're doing classic poetry, but if I went with Shakespeare I felt I would be too much a cliche of myself. I have a lot of favourite poems. It was impossible to narrow down to just one."
 — Simone, Course Adviser

"'Lo, thus by day my limbs, by night my mind
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.'

"This poem always makes me smile: Mrs Darwin, 7 April 1852. 'Went to the Zoo'. 'I said to Him – Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you'. – Carol Ann Duffy
"
It's from a collection I recommend called 'The World’s Wife', in which Duffy writes from the perspective of the women in the lives of famous male figures from history, mythology and fiction."
 — 
Helen, Editor

"I love 'The Glory of the Garden' by Rudyard Kipling. I first read it when I was in a book group with close friends. It was featured in the book 'The Nation's 100 Favourite Poems' which we had chosen as that month's read. The reading of this poem happened to occur just before my grandmother passed away. My grandparents' garden was full of 'tool- and potting-sheds', 'cold-frames and ... hot-houses'. I remember 'grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives'. This poem was such a wonderful revival of special memories for me. It could have been written about their garden. I read the poem at my grandmother's funeral, and copied it out for several family members afterwards. I read it again for my grandfather's funeral just six months later. Whenever I read the poem I think of my grandparents with joy, not sadness. I remember happy holidays playing in their garden, enjoying the fruits of the not inconsiderable labour. It was a glorious garden, and will always be in my mind's eye. This poem, so beautifully written, I am sure will invoke similar memories for many others. This is the power of a great poem, perhaps moving us to tears of joy or sadness, so often awakening memories so vividly."
 — Stephanie, Senior Course Co-ordinator

"'The naming of cats' from 'Old possums book of practical cats' by TS Elliott. Also the inspiration for the hit musical 'Cats'. I love the poem because the idea of a cat needing three different names, one of which no human could ever know, really appealed to me as a kid. Growing up as and surrounded by cat lovers I just find this intriguing! 'You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter when I tell you a cat, must have three different names.'"
 — Carly, Sales and Marketing Manager

Original poems

If you would like to find out more information about National Poetry Day and to read more examples of longer poems about the theme of 'messages' visit NationalPoetryDay.co.uk.

If you’re an aspiring writer, or already enjoy putting pen to paper in some capacity but want to brush up on your skills, our writing courses will teach you all about the techniques professional writers use and enable you to produce polished and well-structured pieces of writing.
 

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