(Update below) One of the coldest UK winter's in memory wasn't enough for teacher Jonathan Boyle. He's jetted off to Arctic conditions in Russia to spend halft-term supporting teachers in Moscow and Samara with CadCam (computer-aided design and manufacture) and distance learning techniques.
"The weather was minus 25 degrees on arrival and the warmest here was minus 18," he says. "Walking about was outrageously cold but fun for a few minutes. The air has crystals of frost in it that fall and blow in the wind. Winter lasts around nine months and then there is extraordinary heat – last year 45 degrees – so there are two extremes."
Jonathan Boyle is a deputy headteacher at Madeley Academy in Telford, Shropshire (and a contributor to this website). He was invited to Russia to train in ArtCAM Pro software which he uses with his students. His visit takes him from Moscow to Samara visiting schools where they too have an interest in the distance learning methods used to engage others in CadCam.
He starts his week-long tour today (Monday February 21) with a two-and-a-half-hour presentation to 50 teachers from the region. And he has already had a chance for some exploring: "I stood last night on the frozen river Volga. The local residents ski the width of the river from one side to the other to get to the town. Everything is so vast that the only way to travel is by car, avoiding the holes and dips in the road. The driver last night was excellent in making the journey as comfortable as possible. Driving at high speed on ice here is no problem for the cars, and it would appear equally so for the planes to land yesterday in Samara."
A former winner of Becta's ICT in Practice award
A former recipient of Becta's ICT in Practice award, Jonathan Boyle has always been quick to incorporate multimedia technologies like Camtasia and CrazyTalk into his teaching. The presentations and tasks he creates for his students are recorded in Camtasia so that they can be shared later on the school network. Any student can check them later – in school or anywhere else they have an interent connection – if there was something they didn't catch or understand, especially if they missed the lesson.
These are the kinds of techniques that he has used to build up CPD materials on CadCam for other teachers with his video based learning materials for students and adults in ArtCAM. These have been widely distributed and have earned him a Gatsby Fellowship in Technology, his BECTA teaching award and an evening at Number 10 Downing Street to meet the then prime minister, Tony Blair.
More than 13,000 copies of his CAD CAM Cookies distance learning materials have been distributed to teachers – and for free, The latest instalment, called Utopian Edition, was the first to be accredited by the Design and Technology Association as a certificated course for Teachers of Design and Technology in schools.
None of the learning materials would have been possible unless modern video-based screen capture technology had been used, he says: “Using Camtasia from Techsmith.com to record my lessons electronically has transformed my professional life since the year 2000. This has helped to make our curriculum at Madeley Academy far more dynamic and accessible by a wide range of learners.”
At Madeley Academy, students enjoy access to industry standard software of which ArtCAM Pro underpins most of the CadCam curriculum. Students as young as 11 design and manufacture products using state-of-the-art equipment to an exacting standard. “Making videos to demonstrate how products can be designed and manufactured in schools has moved this subject forward on a national scale,” he says. “It’s great to see projects developed over the years being taught in schools as far as Malaysia and Australia. I hope now to see some of the projects enjoyed by the children over here being taught in Russia.”
HIs Russian hosts are taking good care of him and providing a chauffer for the week to take the sting out of being pitched from a full school timetable into a week of speaking enagagements. "I've had so many new experiences that I could not believe even before setting foot on Russian soil, most of them stressful, but all is good. The people looking after me are delightful and I was taken to the opera last night for an experience I will not forget. Their patriotism for their country is palpable and has featured heavily even in the first couple of days. It is a rare event for these good people to get a visit and they have spoken warmly of the opportunity of this visit."
He will never forget his first full exposure to the weather however. "My walk was not more than seven minutes but I could feel the wind freezing my glasses to my nose," he says. "I could see the hotel in the distance, but it seemed like the oasis in the desert. If I lost my hat out here then it would be serious."
UPDATE - Tuesday night, February 22
"Today I have visited three sites across 500 kilometres. I am shattered. More television, cameras and papers.
I cannot believe the status accorded to a visiting teacher. There are colour books over here with me featuring on many pages. I have signed autographs and books alike. We set off after 9am and I have just returned before 11pm. I am shattered again.
"The temperature was colder than -30 degrees. I have lost my hat somewhere and am laden down with gifts. People were lining the corridors and welcoming. It was surreal. Different events were hosted in separate rooms, from military marching students and dancing to ICT work and presentations – and then my own presentations to adults from over the region. Be in no doubt that this is massive for me and seems significant to others.
"Leaving for Moscow for two days if I can find my way. Cars and drivers turn up every day and drive me for hours, often on solid ice. High speed and efficient. Lots and lots of snow, at times dumped to double the height of the car. Bright sunshine but bitterly cold. No more than a few minutes can be tolerated in the breeze for me as my cheeks stop moving."