Christmas far from the North Pole

Christmas far from the North Pole

Is it possible to get in to the Christmas spirit thousands of miles away from Lapland ???

In this Vblog Chris and Sue take you on a fun trip around Toulouse to soak up the Christmas atmosphere in South West France. There are only blue skies, no snow in sight but a lot of French cheese, cakes, chocolate, Canadian whisky and even a Christmas flamingo !!

You’ll see how Sue tries to get Chris into the Christmas spirit in a city a far, far away from Santa’s grotto. 

What do you think, is Christmas too commercial or just an excuse to have some fun in winter?

Click here to go to Two Frogs Travel YouTube channel and see beautiful Toulouse at Christmas.

Wherever you are in the world, hot or snowy climes we wish you a very Happy Christmas!

 

 

Using a SWOT to enhance personal learning

Using a SWOT to enhance personal learning

Using a SWOT to enhance personal learning

One of the hardest things to do alone is to effectively carry out a skills self-evaluation before setting up clear objectives towards a Personal Learning Plan (PLP).

Knowing where one is at a given time is not an easy task due to a variety of reasons, one being the difficulty in being objective with oneself – the ability to take a step back and see things as they are, without being overshadowed by emotive aspects.

It also depends a lot on how we are as a person:

A confident person and a person with lower self-esteem, will have diametrically opposed difficulties in evaluating themselves both realistically and objectively.

Embarking on this task, alone is quite a challenging undertaking.

Using a SWOT to enhance personal learning – SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis can really help in gaining clarity and setting realistic objectives and is a simple tool that can be used alone, but which can be further exploited with the help of a coach.

The SWOT analysis is a simple matrix as shown below:

EXTERNAL INTERNAL
Strengths Weaknesses
Opportunities Threats

The idea is to start out by looking at where you are now in terms of your goals, aims and objectives and to discover where effort needs to be focued in order to reach your goals.

The process is reflective and involves a certain degree of metacognition (thinking about your own thinking) in order to be able to effectively accomplish the task.

In order to demonstrate the concept, let’s take Claire, a working mum, who wants to progress in her job – this is just to illustrate an example – it could be any subject and a SWOT can also be used in other contexts.

Using a SWOT to enhance personal learning is great for strategic planning and project feasibility studies as the focus is largely a 360° approach and very analytical, but one which entails action steps and change as a consequence.

Claire has a strong desire to progress in her job, but she has never really been able to succeed due to many barriers which systematically get in the way, and which she cannot seem to surmount, at least on her own.

She has never really been obsessively nor aggressively ambitious and has always put her family before herself, but now wants to move to a more interesting job with more responsibility.

When embarking on a SWOT, it is easy to fall into the trap of being able to fill the Weaknesses section easily and then be short of Strengths – it is sometimes dialectic, in as much as a Weakness can also be an Opportunity as a Threat can also become a Strength.

She has decided to start work with a coach to be able to get things moving as she has never quite got there alone and feels that this is a good opportunity for her, both in her life and in her career.

Her coach has asked her to fill in the SWOT matrix, which she does before they meet again.

STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES are known as Internal elements that either create or reduce value, whilst OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS are known as External elements that can form barriers to learning but that are often not fully controlled by the learner.

The questions to ask are: What am I good at / what qualities or skills do I possess?

STRENGTHS

What are the qualities / skills that I need to develop that I am aware of ?

WEAKNESSES

How can I use my STRENGTHS to overcome my weaknesses, to move into new areas of learning?

OPPORTUNITIES

What hinders or prevents me from reaching my goals?

THREATS

STRENGTHS

Communication, Punctual, Telephone manner, Organised, Conscientious, Experience in the company, Motivated

WEAKNESSES

IT Skills, Foreign Language skills, Time Management, Management skills, Lack of experience of team management Gets easily stressed, Lack of self-confidence

OPPORTUNITIES

More responsibilities, Variety in new job, Learn new skills, Higher salary, Company car, be part of the decision making process

THREATS

Lives far from work, Difficulty to travel, Family commitments, Age, etc.

Coaching a person through a SWOT analysis is both a negotiated and an awareness process, predominately made up of questioning, but essentially, it must be free of judgement or preconceived ideas.

The coach decides to use another tool to complement the SWOT process, a Confrontation Matrix, which is used to offset the Strengths with Opportunities and Threat, and the Weaknesses with the same, as shown below:

EXTERNAL /INTERNAL OPPORTUNITIES THREATS
STRENGTHS ATTACK STRATEGY ADJUSTMENT STRATEGY
WEAKNESSES DEFENCE STRATEGY SURVIVAL STRATEGY

In the SWOT matrix, the coach helps the learner to offset STRENGTHS with OPPORTUNITIES / STRENGTHS with THREATS and consequently, WEAKNESSES with OPPORTUNITIES / WEAKNESSES with THREATS in order to produce a set of action steps or a PLP to help the learner progress to the next step, which, in this case, will be a set of decisions and plans to move into the new job.

The value of a SWOT is that it is a way of seeing where a learner is at a given point in time and where they need to be in the future.

It can help build a clear Learning Action Plan with specific goals, timescales and measurement variables built in.

If you intend using a SWOT analysis there are some do’s and don’ts to be aware of in order to guarantee the success of the process:

  1. Don’t expect people to be able to fill in the matrix without a clear briefing of how it will be used and the type of elements that it should include.
  2. Ensure that there is adequate thought and process time to be able to complete the matrix.
  3. Understand that the SWOT is ephemeral. That it could be filled-in today and change tomorrow. People, contexts and situations are constantly in a state of flux.
  4. Ensure that there are clear guidelines and boundaries on confidentiality. The only sharing is done by the learner – who can invite the coach/mentor to be present if they want to debrief their managers on the process and outcomes.
  5. Be aware that people with low self-esteem will naturally include more weaknesses than strengths – they will need help evoking their qualities, skills and qualities more than confident people.
  6. The process should be viewed as a positive and fun process, with benefits clearly set-out for the learner.
  7. Remember that the coach will learn a great deal from the process, which can be used as another building-block in the coach’s development.
  8. There needs to be a bond of trust between learner and coach/mentor, built before embarking on a SWOT
#Name yourself Day

#Name yourself Day

9th April is Name Yourself Day. That’s a lot of fun !

But seriously, names are very important, they are part of our culture and our identity. Take a listen to this TED talk to see how important names are and how adapting our names to new cultures is not always so straight forward. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58tDCaEWfHI

Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day

Who was Martin Luther King Jr. in 500 words.

Martin Luther King Jr, born 15th January 1929, was an American  Baptist  minister and activist who became the most well-known leader of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s.

Born Michael King Jr, his father later changed his son’s name to honor the memory of the German Protestant leader, Martin Luther.

MLK, as he became known, was a firm believer in nonviolence and  civil disobedience, inspired by his religious beliefs and the nonviolent activism of  Mahatma Gandhi. He participated in and led marches against racial discrimination and segregation for voting rights, labour rights, schooling and other basic civil rights.

MLK first rose to prominence during the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott when Rosa Parks an African American woman refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man. The boycott lasted more than a year and finally the United States Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery segregation laws were unconstitutional. MLK later became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and he helped organize some of the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. His most successful action was the People’s March in 1963 when he led the march on Washington, where 20,000 people heard him deliver his famous “I Have a Dream”  speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He spoke of his dream in which the sons and daughters of white slave owners and black slaves would be brothers and sisters living in peace.

Through his non-violent methods he gained much public support for the civil rights demands which resulted in the passage of the  Civil Rights Act of 1964, authorizing the federal government to enforce desegregation of public accommodations and outlawing discrimination in publicly owned facilities, as well as in employment. 

On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating  racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize two of the three Selma to Montgomery marches whose aim was to register black voters in the South. The marchers encountered deadly violence from the authorities but  eventually  the Voting Rights Bill of 1965 was passed giving equal rights to all citizens regardless of the colour of their skin.

Although MLK was lauded worldwide for his nonviolent methods to oppression he did face opposition from more radical leaders such as Malcolm X.  

Later in life MLK expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty, capitalism, and the Vietnam War. In 1968, MLK was planning a national occupation of  Washington DC to be called the  Poor People’s Campaign, when he was  assassinated on April 4 in  Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupted in many US cities following his death. His presumed assassin, James Earl Ray, insisted he had been framed by the FBI for the murder.

Martin Luther King Jr was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Martin Luther King Jr Day was created a national holiday in 1986 and is celebrated on the 3rd Monday of January.

Only 2 other people have national days in their honor; George Washington (3rd Monday of February)  and Christopher Columbus (2nd Monday of October)….. but that’s another story ! 

  How to activate your memory for language learning

  How to activate your memory for language learning

  How to activate your memory for language learning

Learning a new language can seem all about memory; how on earth am I going to remember all these new words? Apart from the skills of listening, repeating and practice you can also try handwriting and drawing new words. Living in the 21st century the computer keyboard tends to be our “go to method”, but did you know that you can improve your language learning by handwriting new vocabulary?

Studies have shown that using a pen or pencil activates more areas of your brain than a keyboard does.

In a recent study (i) 12 adults and 12 seventh-graders were each asked to write and draw with a digital pen. Each person was also asked to type on a keyboard. While performing these tasks, each volunteer wore a cap that held electrodes next to their head. The results showed that writing turned on memory areas in the brain whereas typing didn’t. Drawing images also turned on parts of the brain involved with learning. These new findings back up other studies showing the benefits of handwriting, 

So how does handwriting compare to using a keyboard when it comes to learning new information?

Take a moment to think about how you write.

First, hand movements; the same movement is required to type each letter on a keyboard. In contrast, when we write, our brain needs to think about and retrieve memories of the shape of each letter. We also need to use our eyes to watch the shapes we’re writing. And we need to control our hands to press a pen to shape the different letters. In short, all these skills use, connect and challenge more areas of the brain.

Now think about how you select information; key words can be interlinked by highlighting and small drawings.

Take your time; handwriting can be a slow process and this slowing down requires you to think more, activate the brain and remember better.

Get creative; handwriting can also mean drawing. You can also make a mind map, linking words together in a meaningful visual map to enhance meaning and memory.

But don’t abandon technology all together; the computer can be a great tool to help with correcting grammar and spelling.

But still put a pen in your hand; have you noticed that when you reread a printed text ideas flow into your brain the minute you pick up a pen, corrections flow and you also see mistakes immediately on the paper that you didn’t see on the screen.

So, on balance it is recommended to take notes by hand, making a mind map, writing a first draft of an essay by hand but then use technology to check the grammar and spelling for the final draft.

It’s the best of both worlds !

Footnote

 

The Captains’ Q&A – 2017 Launch | RBS 6 Nations

The Captains’ Q&A – 2017 Launch | RBS 6 Nations

The Captains’ Q&A – 2017 Launch | RBS 6 Nations

The Six Nations starts on Saturday 4 February 2017 – we are getting really excited and hope you are too.

Here the captains of the 6 teams set out their feelings about what is up ahead.



Should the French captain have spoken in English?

Yes, he should have.
1 Vote
No, he's French.
3 Vote
Yes, the Italian captain did.
0 Vote
I'm not bothered
0 Vote
Yes, it looks bad for France
0 Vote
He can do what he likes
1 Vote

Who will win The 6 Nations rugby tournament 2017?

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