Monthly Archives: May 2015

PGCE Work Shared: Creating, justifying, using and evaluating an ICT/TEL resource

PGCE: Developing Practical Teaching Skills and Enhancing Teaching Learning and Assessment

Create, Justify, Use and Evaluate an ICT/TEL Resource

In the late 1980’s Zuboff (1988) argued that the future of learning lay in the use of machines and technology. How this has come to fruition in the subsequent two decades is easily testified to by all of us.

The main focus of this piece of work is the creation, justification, use and evaluation of an ICT/TEL resource. ICT is information, communication and technology, and TEL is technology enhanced learning. ICT and TEL is now widely used in education to support and assist teaching and learning, for example in delivery of teaching and learning in the classroom, or to enable delivery of teaching and learning remotely at home or while mobile.

Through advancements in technologies offered by ICT applications and the Internet, learning has been enhanced through increased multimedia support (Kearney, 2004) and the general development of ‘elearning’ in all its forms (Buckberry, 2005; Burns, 2005; Duggleby, Jennings, Pickering, Schmoller, Bola, Stone, and Willis, 2004; O’Leary, 2005; Newcombe, Sluzenski, and Huttenlocher, 2005; Sambrook, 2003; Lytras, Naeve, and Pouloudi, 2005). The recent phenomena of ‘blogging’ – the upkeep of a web log, usually on a particular theme or in relation to the thoughts or activities of a specific individual or group – has also opened up new avenues in which learning opportunities can be explored (Flatley, 2005; Williams and Jacobs, 2004). More generally it has been acknowledged that the internet provides specific opportunities for learning to take place in the form of online discussion (Johnson, Howell, and Code, 2005), online learning with others (Russon and Benson, 2005), through virtual learning groups (McFadzean and McKenzie, 2001), collaborative virtual learning (Steif and Dollar, 2004), in virtual communities of practice (Allen et al., 2004), or co-reflection in online learning environments (Yukawa, 2003). Such opportunities have and are being leveraged to maximise learning, and recent developments in this field include the use of virtual collaborative learning with a tutor-agent (Marin, Hunger, Werner, Meila, and Schuetz, 2004), simulation gaming and digital simulation games (Squire, Barnett, Grant, and Higginbotham, 2004; Bailey, 1990), the creation of virtual business environments (Wiersma, 2004) and the facilitation of learning emotional intelligence with synthetic characters (Paiva, Dias, Sobral, Aylett, Woods, Hall, and Zoll, 2005). Therefore, technology has opened up a vast range of possibilities in which online professional development can take place (Vraisidas and Zembylas, 2004). At the same time, and quite simply, in the humble classroom a teacher might allow students to use their own mobile devices (smartphones) to access the internet for research purposes, or conversely, a teacher may provide access to learning resources on the internet that a student can use their smartphone to engage with online from outside the classroom environment.

In my own teaching practice, which focuses on the delivery of GCSE English, I use resources such as poetry, dictionaries/thesauruses, and have to help students understand the structure, language, context, writer’s ideas and the meaning of poetry, therefore I create resources to facilitate this. The poetry on the syllabus can often be perceived as dry and difficult to engage with by the students. Having dictionaries/thesauruses on hand in the classroom works well but I also need students to get into the habit of using them regularly – something that is irritating for students who perceive large dictionaries as too cumbersome to carry around and use. Resources that help students understand structure, language, context, writer’s ideas and the meaning of poetry can also get lost on pieces of paper or notes kept by students in their bags and folders. Having somewhere to store and access notes and resources used in class would be a distinct advantage.

In view of the above, I will be focusing on how ICT/TEL could be used to help students engage more with poetry, both in and out of the classroom learning environment. Specifically, I will be exploring how PowerPoint, YouTube video clips, and the VLE (virtual learning environment) could be used to that effect.

PowerPoint is a tool which creates engaging presentational materials, directed at those with visual learning preferences. Resources developed with PowerPoint are also easy to store, distribute and access electronically, by email, on online content storage systems, in addition to simply printing out hard copies from to share with students in class.

YouTube video clips are visually stimulating, but also facilitate students to engage with sound. YouTube therefore caters for audio as well as visual learning preferences (although I don’t subscribe any longer to the theory of learning styles per se, I do subscribe to the idea that individual students can and do have preferences about how they would like to engage with material, e.g. by film, printed page, etc). YouTube video clips can be accessed via the internet during or outside class time, and can be played back and/or paused in relevant places ad infinitum for the benefit of learners who don’t understand something the first time. The vast range of materials available on YouTube for learning purposes now is tremendous. It makes content like GCSE English poetry accessible in a very engaging way. YouTube clips can also be embedded in PowerPoint presentations and links for them can be shared on the VLE or other online interfaces, including via mobile phones.

The VLE provides a central point which learners can engage with to access learning materials whether in college, at home or on the go with mobiles.

These tools and resources are simple and effective, fit for purpose in line with lesson outcomes and learning aims/objectives, and can keep students engaged. My subject specialism is GCSE English and very often the material (e.g. poetry) can be dry and challenging for students to engage with. If students just read poetry straight from the printed page they don’t know how some words or lines from stanzas are meant to be read or with what rhythm. Therefore, embedding a YouTube video clip of a reading of a piece of poetry by a famous actor into a PowerPoint presentation will allow students to focus, listen, sustain engagement, take notes and understand. The accessibility of this material then being made available on the VLE could then heighten the student experience and possibility to re-engage with learning if a class was missed, or simply to revise work covered in class prior to an assessment.

The students I teach are in the 16-19 age group, a roughly equal mix of male and female, and come from a range of social and economic backgrounds. They are learning on their main vocational course at either level 2 or 3, while GCSE English is representative of a level 2 subject. These students are all ICT/smartphone literate and have good access to the college VLE, whether on campus or elsewhere via the internet. Only a few will admit to not checking their emails regularly.

The GCSE English AQA examining board recommends a set list of poems to be considered for the qualification, and these have to be from the English Literary Heritage collection. There is widespread acknowledgement among teachers that delivery of the poems in class read by the poet themselves if possible is advantageous to learning, and this is evidenced by the availability of the poetry for English GCSE on YouTube, and the number of hits these video clips receive. The specific poems I require are also available: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, Ted Hughes’ ‘Bayonet Charge’, and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Futility’. These are set either to a background of stimulating still graphics, or a relevant moving image (e.g. Bayonet Charge is read over a clip from the TV series, Band of Brothers). In addition, YouTube video clips exist where the poems are analysed by teachers or other academics for GCSE English level students.

Slide1 Slide2

As highlighted in figure 4 below, the integration of the specific ICT/TEL in my lessons for the delivery of GCSE English poetry, is representative of a variety of types of functionality, including redefinition, modification and augmentation.

Slide3

Deployment and implementation of these resources in the classroom with my own learners has justified the benefits of them. Making these poems and their analysis accessible in this way in class time via PowerPoint and on the VLE for continued storage and repeat access away from the classroom is highly beneficial. This enables learners to develop and discover knowledge outside the classroom as well as within it. Learners are more engaged and participation heightens when a well produced video is played, evidenced by their obvious and attentive listening and note taking. The combination of PowerPoint with YouTube clips then made available on the VLE caters for a range of learning preferences of students, including audio, visual, and verbal kinaesthetic when embedded in a learning task which requires conversation with other learners. In social terms these resources support quieter students who do not seek clarification if they don’t understand something; they can repeat the video and pause it to try to understand something at their own leisure. The learning needs the resources cater for includes those such as dyslexia, where understanding written text is challenging – the use of audio eliminates this barrier immediately. In addition, learning needs of those students who suffer short attention spans can be addressed as the video clips are engaging for short periods of time and can be replayed at the convenience of the student if their concentration has waned. In reference to this last point, students with ADHD often display behavioural issues and disengage quickly in class when teaching and learning is not delivered in a sympathetic way. As a result, the ICT/TEL resource suggested also immediately ameliorates challenging behaviour in class as a result. Finally, the use of these tools naturally aids and assists with functional skills English, primarily due to the subject area of English being delivered, but learning and practise for functional skills ICT is also implicitly delivered through use of the tools themselves if students access via the VLE.

The suggested resources are inclusive to seemingly all. However, there would of course be exceptions for deaf students, who would not be able to hear the YouTube recordings. If a deaf student could read though they would have the benefit of the text being presented on the YouTube clip to the backdrop of stimulating imagery and moving image, but some would no doubt need a sign language interpreter. Some students who may have less access to the VLE could include those on pay as you go phone tariffs who can’t afford unlimited internet connectivity and downloading. They may not have a laptop or PC at home to engage with the VLE on, although they would still have access via the learning centre at college.

Slide4

In the wider context, as a range of successful resources they can be shared via email and college intranet with other staff, along with notes/tips/hints for delivery, and demonstrated/discussed at cross college GCSE English staff meetings. This would be perceived as best practice and be in harmony with essential staff training for VLE development and expected implementation of TEL.

In conclusion, the creation of ICT/TEL resources for GCSE English which integrates the simple technology of PowerPoint presentations, YouTube video clips and the VLE sharing platform makes what can be dry poetry more accessible, engaging, and understandable. To improve this further I would in future also seek to integrate a padlet discussion board for students to discuss the poems online together on the VLE after having learned about them and prior to assessment. In addition, there are a range of iPad/iPhone apps and other digital tools that many ICT/TEL savvy English teachers are now using. Although we don’t have iPads available for use in my college, this is something I am keen to explore how to integrate further into lessons where possible in the future with students who have iPhones (see appendix 1 for visual depiction of available apps).

Appendix 1

The following apps for English teachers list was developed and shared by a teacher on Twitter who uses the ID @Fratribus

Slide5

Other apps also available:

Slide6

Slide7
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Flatley, M. E. (2005), ‘Blogging for Enhanced Teaching and Learning’, Business Communication Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 1, pp. 78-80.

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The Quiet Ones

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After a lesson observation earlier this year I was given an action point requiring me to focus on quieter members of the group who, in spite on perhaps not wanting to, should be helped to address communication skills for employability. The students identified were those who were able to reflect and make notes in a starter activity, demonstrating that they had understood a key point, but then when asked to share their thoughts with the group just refused with a polite ‘I don’t know’. They clearly did know. They just didn’t want to share. Or didn’t want to speak out. In front of other people.

These students were very bright, but just held back by their preference not to speak in front of or to the group. This tendency wasn’t just restricted to behaviour in my group. It had also been observed in the observer’s own class, in which he was also trying to push these students beyond their boundaries a bit.

My response, “But I don’t get time to focus on employability issues – I barely get time to deliver on the spec’ for GCSE English. There’s no room for anything else!”

Observer’s response, “But we are in FE, we have wider educational aims. What will happen if this student is out in the workplace next year and we haven’t helped them with this?”

At that moment in time I just thought, “It’s not my job – someone in some other class on a vocational course can deal with that learning outcome – I haven’t got time.”

However, since then the seed of the problem that was planted has taken root a bit, germinated, and I relented. I thought about all those times in my class this last year when the quiet ones in each group just sat there and hoarded their own brilliant hoard of thoughts, didn’t share and kept quiet, never helping the weaker ones with their brilliance. Brilliantly quiet. And then the quietness catches on and before you know it you have lack of engagement with group discussions in general. People get lazy and know they can get away with the lowest effort possible.

So there was an impact on my class and not just issues pertaining to employability at stake. As a result of mulling over these ruminations I decided to think about how I might address this in the forthcoming academic year.

Some teachers I spoke to in the staffroom and on Twitter said that the first thing you do with the quiet students is help to build their confidence and self-esteem by giving lots of praise and encouragement for everything they do, with the assumption that the reason they are quiet is through lack of confidence and fear of speaking out in front of others. But is that always the case? Another teacher in the staffroom suggested there could be a plethora of reasons for a student keeping quiet, including safeguarding issues, and that this should be handled with care. Another school of thought is that some people just prefer being quiet, and why should they be changed? Why should we want them to be something they are not?

All things considered, and a google session on the topic under my belt too, I put this together: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wllqr3k5tmjpw7h/Employability%20Target%20sheet%20-%20communication%20and%20interaction%20.docx?dl=0 It’s a student self evaluation tool, which is intended to be used as a tool for communication on these very topics, where the student can self assess, and make any comments they feel relevant, as regularly as necessary. I think I’m going to try to get students to keep this in a learner file next year, kept in the classroom. I’ll see what students think about this form and the statements for reflection on it. And I’m going to update and adapt it as necessary. At the same time, presuming each statement has some measure of validity, I would like to explore strategies for addressing each of the underlying issues, over time, with individual students, and tie this in with my differentiation planner ( see this at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/dqb5pg3bnyj7w8m/5%20Minute%20Differentiation%20Planner%20Group%20or%20Individual%20.pdf?dl=0 )

Then, I’ll perhaps be able to reflect on whether it helps the student or the class to focus on this at all, and perhaps in the long run whether communication skills are improved. I guess I’d also be able to research destination data to see if there was any link with employability over time, if this could be tied to a larger research project with a control group. But would we ever use a control group? Could there ever be one? Would we ever consciously ‘not’ help one group with communication skills but do so for another? Where would the ethics of that be? Could we ever derive any meaningfully valid and reliable results? Would we care about doing that or is it better to just try and help each student that comes through our door one at a time, with the assumption that we can only do so much?

All thoughts and feedback welcome in comments 🙂

10 Summer Team Building Session Ideas

If you are like me and work in FE, you won’t be having 6 weeks holiday during the summer. You might have a proportion of your annual leave left to take, but it won’t be for the whole of the non-teaching period. So what to do during those summer months besides preparing lesson materials for next year? As soon as teaching ends, how about spending one or two hours per week, where staff bring their own coffee and any nibbles to share to a regular time and place to do a different team building activity.

Purpose: improve your own team working skills, get to know more staff, improve staff interaction opportunities and relationships throughout the summer, in preparation for the new term.

Idea: lots of staff will be taking annual leave during the summer but everyone will be here at some stage and for some of the time. If you are in the building when one of these activities is planned, take the time out to connect with others, improve your team working potential in your organisation – even if you have been to one session, keep going and attend the next! J

Some initial iIdeas for a ten week schedule:

Week 1:

  1. Icebreaker: toilet paper exercise. Quick simple easy icebreaker/energizer requiring only a group and a roll of toilet paper. See the Toilet Paper Icebreaker Exercise on teambuilding games page 2 (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. Treasure hunt with QR codes and iPads with riddles to solve at each spot. Practise your navigational 8 figure grid referencing skills too! Thanks to Drew Thomson on Twitter @mrthomson for the original idea – Drew is head of science and physics teacher at a secondary school in Fife, Scotland.
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 2:

  1. Outdoor icebreaker: the “this pebble is…” exercise (creativity, relaxation, re-energizing, fun, self-expression). This is a quick simple activity for small groups, or for larger groups if split into self-facilitating teams. The underlying ‘skill’ purpose of the activity is to demonstrate and promote creativity. Instruction to group – Take a break outside in the fresh air for five minutes. Stretch your legs. While you are outside find a pebble or small stone and think of a story or meaning for it. As wild or zany or radical or simple or complex story/meaning as you wish (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. Review: Ask people to (briefly) tell their stories/meanings about their pebbles/stones to the group. (There are no right or wrong answers – enjoy and marvel at what people can invent. And see how some people can quickly become very attached to a pebble… because it now has a meaning for them – they created the story/meaning – the ownership of something you create yourself is often a very powerful effect.) Optionally discuss how this activity is different to typical work tasks. (It’s utterly creative – you are making something completely new and being 100% proactive, rather than processing something and being mostly reactive, as in typical work tasks). Creativity inevitably entails self-expression – this can make it hugely empowering and fun, even for serious work situations – did we see examples of self-expression in the stories and meanings that people created for their pebbles? Creativity is extremely valuable in problem-solving, and using personal initiative, together with all aspects of organizational/people/business development. Creativity is a huge component of leadership. It enables leaders to innovate, pioneer, envision, solve challenges, make decisions, reconcile competing things, achieve cooperations, inspire, communicate, etc, etc. It’s a capability that we can all improve (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  3. Main Activity: Reaching out! Build a bridge out of flip chart paper in the amphitheatre outside North Block. Bridges will be judged on technical quality, time taken to complete, and how well people exchanged ideas to make the end product work (thanks to Suzy Wilkinson for this idea).
  4. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 3:

  1. Icebreaker: lifestyle acronyms game (language and communications, generational issues, demographics, creativity, teamwork). A fun exercise which relates to several juicy modern topics. Adaptable as a quick icebreaker. See the lifestyle acronyms game on teambuilding games page 2 (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. “Don’t eat me!” The river crossing boat puzzle (chicken, fox, bag of corn and a man). In teams, take on the role of the chicken etc, and plan your journey across the river (imaginary one on the sports field) in your boat. Design a boat too if you like 😉 (thanks to Suzy Wilkinson for this idea).
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 4:

  1. Icebreaker: guessing game exercises (ice-breaker, assumptions, guesswork/judgment risks, multiple intelligences, natural strengths, ‘wisdom of crowds’). An interesting and very adaptable exercise for exploring the concept of guessing and intuitive judgment. See the Guessing Game on teambuilding games page 2 (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. Picture This! Draw a basic picture, then sit back to back, paper and pencil in hand, describe the basic shapes of the picture and the other person has to draw it and see how close they get to the original picture. See how your communication and descriptive abilities improve each time as you keep moving on to a new drawing partner. Do this exercise with as many people as possible in the time you have (thanks to Adam Godber for this idea).
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 5:

  1. The Great Escape – Sheffield – or something and somewhere similar, subject to management approval and budget of course. See thegreatescapegame.co.uk for more info (thanks to Harriet Cliff at Capita Education FE resourcing for this idea).
  2. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 6:

  1. Icebreaker: ‘how to tie a shoelace’ instructions exercise (warm-up, process design, how to write clear instructions, empathy, etc). A quick simple flexible exercise for any group, to encourage thinking and development of skills for communicating instructions and information to others. See the ‘how to tie a shoelace’ instructions exercise on team building games 2 (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. All tied up! Human knot or the hula hoop one where everyone is in a circle holding hands and you add a hula hoop and you’ve got to get it round the circle back to the start faster than the other groups! Timed activity with a prize (thanks to Debs Beuzeval for this idea).
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 7:

  1. Icebreaker: early bird/second mouse exercise (ice-breaker, creative thinking, presentation skills, debating, analysis, teamworking, group decision dynamics). A simple and flexible activity for small or large groups of all ages, involving several learning elements: strategy, teamwork, presentations, debate, analysis and group dynamics and decision-making. See the Early Bird/Second Mouse Exercise on teambuilding games page 2 (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. Acid River – Team Building- Problem solving – Communication: Four blocks of Wood. You have to cross an imaginary acid river, getting your whole team across, without touching the floor (thanks to Chrissie Vale for this idea).
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 8:

  1. Icebreaker: three describers exercise (icebreaker, introductions, mutual awareness, teambuilding). Teams compete to see how well they know other team members, by attempting to match quick self-penned descriptions to the owners of the characteristics. See the three describers exercise on team building games page 2 (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. Rotation! A problem solving team activity for 8 per group but can have a ninth person as the leader (thanks to Debs Beuzeval for this idea).
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 9:

  1. Icebreaker: truth and lies introductions game. Simple introductions exercise to add some creativity, humour, and group decision-making to courses and other group situations. See the truth and lies icebreaker on teambuilding games page 2 (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. Guided Tour! In teams of 5 create a virtual guided tour of your College (output to be using TEL or some other presentational device). Take the roles of experts or historical figures (thanks for Jason Finley on Twitter @finleyjd for this idea – Jason is a teacher in Vermont, USA).
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Week 10:

  1. Icebreaker: people to introduce themselves individually, in turn, as a kitchen gadget (or kitchen-drawer item) which represents their own personality and strengths. Guide participants to naming their chosen gadget/item and then offering (no more than three) brief points as to their (the gadget’s/item’s) main purpose, strengths, characteristics, etc., which should be a representation of him/herself (at work or home or in life generally, which may be determined by the facilitator depending on wider aims) (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  2. Main activity: ‘life dreams negotiating’ game (motivation, personality differences, empathy, negotiating, debating, arguing a case, mutual awareness). This flexible easy-to-run activity is ideally for groups/teams of about eight people, or you can easily adapt the exercise for different group numbers. The exercise can be run with a group as small as four. The activity purpose is: to explore life priorities, aims, needs, dreams, etc., (depending on the overall purpose of the meeting); to enable discovery, sharing, and evaluation of personal wishes/needs, and other people’s wishes/needs; to consider personal value systems alongside other people’s value systems; and to negotiate and agree compromises for collective values/wishes/needs, etc. Duration guide – 30 minutes for 8 people. The facilitator can control this activity easily by stipulating times allowed for each stage, by which people have to make their decisions. There is no particular penalty for failing to reach agreement by the time allowed – the sense of wanting to achieve agreement is typically sufficient incentive (beside which, without agreement participants are effectively unable to progress to the next stage). Preparation – Hardly anything is required – as a minimum you need just some blank cards, or stiff paper, postcard size or a bit bigger, and pens/pencils. Sufficient for each delegate to have 5-6 cards to write/draw on. Alternatively and additionally, to add an extra dimension and stimulate more senses, you can compile a big ‘box of bits and pieces’ to represent very symbolically the things that people consider important in life (for example a lemon or potato could represents food or nature, a car key could represent cars or transport or mobility, and a house key could represent security or a home – people may attach/explain their own meanings to symbolic bits and pieces, and/or to hand-drawn images or words). The activity requires each delegate to choose three things that they consider most important in their lives, and then afterwards to discuss and negotiate with another person to agree a revised set of three things that satisfies their life-needs/wishes of the two people as a pairing. Each pairing then repeats the process with another pairing, to agree a four-person set of three things. And then the whole group (say of eight people) must discuss and agree a set of three things, which satisfies the entire group. If you have a group of ten then you can ask people to work in threes alongside pairs. A group of nine could be split into 3 x 3, and then brought together as a whole. It’s flexible provided you follow a basic joining together pattern in one or two steps, culminating in a whole group discussion/agreement. Each ‘thing’ is represented by a card (postcard size or a bit bigger) carrying word or drawing, or by a physical item. The exercise begins by people creating these cards – initially their individually chosen three things – or by selecting and attaching a meaning to three ‘bits and pieces’ from the box. Review: Explore issues and feelings arising during and after the activity, for example: Ease/difficulty of selecting three things; Ease/difficulty in agreeing compromises and understanding other people’s selections; How our feelings towards different things might have altered during the exercise; Levels of cooperation and competitiveness experienced, witnessed; What are common priorities/needs? What are immovable needs, if there are any? And lots of other issues which can arise depending on your surrounding purpose, and the nature of the group (source: http://www.businessballs.com/free-team-building-activities.htm ).
  3. Reflective task at the end to assess own team work skills and those of others in the group – set yourself some personal targets and aim to improve next time.

Do you have any thoughts on the activities mentioned above? Can you improve on them, or do you have other ideas? Please share in comments below. Happy teambuilding! Carol