Skills Workshop

Skillsworkshop front page

I recently posted about how one form of crowd sourcing in education was the use of resource banks. I’ve already mentioned talent.ac.uk on this blog, now I want to look at a similar resource – Skills Workshop. This is a fantastic site, jam-packed with resources, which has grown through one person’s initiative together with contributions from many others.

A growing resource

This website grew from Maggie Harnew’s personal stock of basic skills teaching materials, but has now grown to include contributions from a number of practitioners from around the UK. The majority of resources have been contributed by the site’s users and it has become THE resource site for basic skills teachers in Britain.

It has been around for a while, but has recently undergone a major redesign, which has made it much easier to use (you can read about the history of the site here: http://www.skillsworkshop.org/about/history).

The site is invaluable as it covers an area where there are very few quality commercially-produced resources. As the onus on teaching staff in these areas is to produce their own resources it is great that there is a way to share resources like this. It saves teachers’ time and through the sharing of best practice can also give ideas and inspiration for creating future resources.

Where this site differs from a number of other similar sites is that all resources are moderated, classified and formatted by Maggie before being posted. While this does mean that resources do sometimes take a while to go on the site once they are submitted, it does guarantee a certain degree of quality that can sometimes be missing on other resource banks.

Resources

The site is organised under the following categories:

Literacy – For learners of Adult Literacy (usually first-language English speakers, but may still be of use to second language speakers)

Numeracy – Maths resources

Pre-Entry – for learners who are beginner reader and writers

ESOL – Resources for ESOL learners from pre-entry up to Level 2 (Advanced)

ICT – Resources to develop learners’ IT skills

General – Resources which fit in to a number of categories.

Contextual – Resources which have been designed for learners following other courses, such as Health Care, Construction, Motor Engineering or Hairdressing. These resources are particularly useful for those teaching Functional Skills.

There is also a Useful Links section which is exactly what you would expect – there are loads of links related to language, literacy and numeracy which include resources, organisations and other relevant links.

Each of those sections are then arranged according to the Skills for Life Core Curricula; if you are interested in these you can find more details here: http://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/sflcurriculum (Interactive, free registration required) or http://rwp.excellencegateway.org.uk/ESOL/Adult%20ESOL%20core%20curriculum/ (PDF, no registration required).

The codes may seem a bit bewildering (Wt/L1.2a, etc) but all resource pages on the site now feature the text of each descriptor, so it is clear which aspects of language or numeracy are developed by each resource. The search function also uses the text of the descriptors so you can use this to find a resource that concentrates on a particular aspect of language, literacy or numeracy.

Crowdsourcing

The key features of this site are that it is both free and comprehensive; the only way that this is possible is because people contribute resources to it. So if you have any resources which you feel are suitable, please donate them. Likewise if you know of any links that could be of use, add them to the Useful Links section – this way the site can continue to grow.

If you don’t feel that you have any resources or links to add, the site does give space to add comments to any of the resources featured there. If you find an activity that you really like, but have suggestions for other resources or websites to accompany it, once you’ve registered you are able to easily add them to the resource page once you’ve registered.

I’ve already written about how blogging and tweeting can be used to engage with professional development and find resources and Maggie Harnew maintains both a Skills Workshop blog and a Skills Workshop Twitter account that gives you the chance to keep up to date and engage with the site.

While this site owes an enormous amount to the determination and vision of its found, it is another great example of how crowdsourcing can build up a really impressive resource.

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4 thoughts on “Skills Workshop

  1. Wow! Thanks for that Phil. How nice to have someone Blog about the site. I have to put in a word for the good people at Fonant here as the re-design is all down to them and some LSIS prize money I won a while ago.

    Thanks also for encouraging others to contribute. The more the merrier 🙂
    I didn’t realise that what I did was called crowdsourcing but I do like that term!

    BTW since you blogged this I have also started a skillsworkshop Facebook page.http://www.facebook.com/skillsworkshop.org The idea behind this is to encourage more feedback and better communication between me and site users / contributors. Early days yet but it seems to be working well so far.

    1. Have ‘liked’ the Facebook page – there’s not a great deal of FE people online it seems, so that’s a really useful addition. I’ve found social media great for finding ideas and resources. I’ve noticed that there is a TAFE lecturer from Australia who has started to put together a list of vocational education people on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/JoHart/voced-people

      Crowdsourcing seems to have been used for a few different things – a high profile example of this was Facebook getting its users to localise it into many different langauges – they asked people to vote which expressions sounded best in their language – there’s some info on it here:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24205912/ns/technology_and_science-internet/t/facebook-asks-users-translate-free/ and here: http://www.globalbydesign.com/blog/2008/01/14/is-facebook-translation-worthy-or-just-plain-cheap/. The most famous example is probably Wikipedia – made by the users.

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