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Last weekend I fulfilled an ambition I’d had for a long time.  We walked across Morecambe Bay at low tide.  This is a very dangerous place and it shouldn’t be attempted without guidance so we had phoned in advance to book onto a pre-arranged walk.  The chap on the phone sounded very friendly so we were looking forward to it.  Unfortunately, Northern Rail had other ideas and their 9.02 service arrived nearly an hour late.  I rang the organiser again and he said he would send his wife to Carnforth station to meet us with the car.  With this amount of friendliness and informality I had imagined a relatively small affair.  How wrong can you be? She drove us to Hest Bank where the walk had already started – you can’t wait for tides, and we were astonished to see a long line of about 200 people setting off.  We had prepared in advance and had slapped on sunscreen all over and by the first channel had to decide – shoes on or off.  We decided to do it bare foot so the shoes went in the bags.

The walk is the original drovers passage from Hest Bank to Flookburgh.  We in fact went to Grange over Sands as there was some sort of steam festival in Flookburgh.  There is an official Queen’s guide to the sands but he no longer does the Hest Bank route.

Route was from Hest Bank to Grange over Sands

Route was from Hest Bank to Grange over Sands

We set off and quickly caught up with the rest of the party.  It was very very well organised with a number of supporting walkers, two tractors and about 4 quad bikes.  If anyone was stuggling to keep up they could have a ride on the tractor.  We crossed a couple of small channels and the group stopped every hour or so to muster everyone together.  Eventually we made it to the Kent Channel which is essentially where the River Kent drains into the Bay.  One of the leaders went ahead with a long stick and checked that the ground under the water was safe and once we were all together we set off.  It was quite fast flowing at times and the deepest it got was sort of mid-thigh.  I don’t think anyone took the tractor option.

Standing in the middle of Kent's Channel

Standing in the middle of Kent's Channel

We followed the course of the channel along its bank for quite a way as we moved towards Grange.  Once there it was such a relief to sit down as by the nature of the Bay you are on your feet the whole time and there is no opportunity for rest breaks (of any kind!).  We had walked 9 miles in bare feet over soft sand, hard sand, rippled sand, mud, samphire and grass.  We then discovered that sun can penetrate through sea water and burn the top of your feet – the one bit without sunscreen!  The organisers had also added a transport option and for an extra £3 you could get a very welcome coach back.  It was a really unique experience, quite hard work and great fun.

I was in Glasgow last week for the inaugural meeting of the Accessibility and Inclusion role group.  Members from the other RSC regions who had responsibility for Accessibility and Inclusion were there and it was a great opportunity to discuss developments, and share experiences.  There is some seriously good work going on and I was particularly impressed with a project that Margaret McKay has been doing with Glasgow Metropolitan College.  They have implemented a cross college process to make learning materials accessible.  CALM – Creating Accessible Learning Materials – is a project to ensure that learning materials are ‘accessibile, readable and available in a variety of formats to meet the requirements of learners with a range of additional learning needs.’

This is a college wide approach and not one which is just for the learning support staff.  All staff have had training and more importantly, the college invested in admin staff to provide support in converting existing documents into more accessible formats.  As the continued gripe from staff that we get is – ‘we haven’t got the time’  providing admin and technical support has been crucial to the success of the scheme.

So now I’m wondering if we could do something similar in a college in the North west.  I have a couple of candidates in mind but may possibly speak to them before posting to here.

It was a great visit and we had a superb traditional scottish meal in the Bothy restaurant.  Yes I had haggis with neaps and tatties and it was very nice.  I also discovered ‘tablet’ which is like kendal mint cake without the mint – I think that’s the nearest I can get to it.  Thanks to Margaret who was a fantastic hostess and it was great to see everyone from around the UK and NI.

Well it was a week ago but the conference went really well.  It  was great to see so many of the great and good in eLearning in the North West and to meet some new friends also.  I was especially please to meet Nick and Paul from Janet.txt and think it is a fab bit of kit and am looking forward to finding more and more uses for it.  I’m sure I’ll be in touch with more ideas.  I managed to get a swim in the morning before the event, even though I’d forgotten to bring a swimsuit – good old asda – 48p!  How can you sell an item of clothing for 48p?  The venue was superb with fantastic views over the racecourse.

View from Princess Royal stand, Aintree

View from Princess Royal stand, Aintree

It was great that Bev from Accrington and Rossendale College had brought along some learners to deliver their seminar on using mobile technologies for learning.  During the day, I managed to get some people to record messages onto gabcast. A couple of my colleagues and I took photos and they can be seen using the RSCNW08 tag on Flickr.  Great day, great venue, fab food – can recommend it.

The whole team are running about doing last minute preparations for our annual conference on Friday this week.  It will take place at Aintree Racecourse and has the title ‘The eLearning Effect – Enhance, Enlighten, Engage’.  We have put together some web 2.0 features to gather feedback from the event.  Firstly a flickr and blog tag – RSCNW08 to group photos from the day and the preparations – I’ve put a few up there in advance of the team.  We also have a gabcast channel – which I’m going to use to record audio feedback during the day and beforehand.  I have managed to organise a demo account with an SMS company txttools, so will be asking delegates to sms questions or feedback during the day and finally we have a virtual conference on Facebook.  Please come along and leave a comment or just say hello.

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