Thursday, April 30, 2020

FOSTER TRAINING IN LOCKDOWN

So Blue Sky are continuing to keep Carers informed about the latest developments in everything connected to fostering. They call it training, I like to see it as an update.

Normally they would assemble us in a room and someone, almost always a hired expert, would stand up in front of us and deliver the information.

But that can't happen right now, nor will it for some time to come.

So they've started doing it long distance, using Zoom.

And I have to say, hand on heart, there are no superlatives to do justice to the experience. I'll try;

First off the tutor was a Blue Sky person; Ed Hill-Thompson. The fact that he was Blue Sky was a big plus because his knowledge of us and our needs shaded that of the usual visiting lecturer.

Second, since we were all at home (instead of sat in a sort of classroom) and we were watching a bright colourful screen meant the whole experience had none of the "First period maths, second period geography" feel. In fact it was more like an entertainment thing except there was quality learning going on.

Third the information was exhilarating; the topic was "How to get the best out of the internet". It could have been "How to avoid the dangers of the internet", but one of the big things that I took away was a refreshed view of the internet as a tool to advance our fostering and help our children on their way.

Fourth - and I'll come back and finish by expanding this bit because it's stellar - the guy Ed is just so, so good at delivering it was a privilege to be there and be on the receiving end.

The content was spread over two days, two hours each day. We hooked up using Zoom during moments before the beginning with Ed centre-screen welcoming us. If you didn't want to be seen no problem, your camera isn't used. When the session got under way our microphones were all muted or else there'd be that tinny howl. If you wanted to ask a question you could use the chat window and Ed would bring you in. None of us were seen on screen once Ed got going; the visuals were him and his graphics.

Ed used lots of the Zoom resources to keep the screen busy and informative without using bells and whistles for their own sake. 

He got us all thinking; for example, he asked us to guess (inside our own heads) how many people there are on earth. (Answer 8 billion) Then he asked how many of them had mobile phones = 5 billion. Then he asked how many used social media = 3 billion. He had text and images popping up to reinforce what he was saying. None of us had a clue that so many people, many of them in poverty, had devices; Ed told us it was down to the recycling of old  mobile phones that got exported and sold in market places. His point was that the digital universe is huge and expanding.

We were all involved all the time, for example he put on screen some logos of different apps and asked us to use a second device (I used my phone) to find out some facts about them by logging onto a website called commonsensemedia, which reviews media aimed at children and young people and assesses the positives and the negatives. We learned that most kids have 50-60 apps on their mobile phones and that it's not hard to spot the logos on their phones and once you've seen the logo you can, if you feel you should, do a check on the app.

There was the right amount of information, all of it gold dust, but too much for me to reprise here. I was particularly interested in an aspect of gaming I had no idea was a factor namely that there's a trend in modern day games to lure players into gambling. It works like this; the player gets into the game for free, but to progress they have to acquire resources, maybe a helmet or a set of skis. They can buy a thing called a 'loot box' for a sub-pocket money fee, say £2.99. But they don't know what they're going to get, a bit like a lucky dip. If they don't get what they need to progress they try again; in other words they're gambling on the outcome.  Ed reminded us that as children they ought not have unlimited resources to gamble, but he reminded us also that we had a responsibility that our children didn't reach adulthood and access to deeper pockets with a taste for gambling.

So finally Ed himself. Ed is simply magnetic; a quick mind combined with an easy style, he has a ready wit, he's an engaging person who really knows his stuff and loves his job. Qualities like those are infectious and we could all sense we were almost being baptised and born anew from the mire of lockdown. Plus; Ed is spectacularly cool. From his immaculate street-modern hair style (he self-deprecatingly apologised that he needed a haircut - ha ha), to his huge ear lobe inserts; from his discreet nose piercing to his David Beckham art work, the guy oozed the kind of savvy we Foster Carers need on our side.

If you're not with Blue Sky I have yet to find out whether his wisdom and knowledge is out there in any form that can be got at, if so it gets a 5 star rating.


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