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This is an extract from my book, The seven year education itch (available on iTunes, Amazon and Kobo).

When I first started facilitating, I was given guidance and helpful tips from other colleagues that had been facilitating for a very long time. A common theme was they were very set in their ways of how to deliver classes, what resources to use and methods of handling students that aren’t progressing. I listened to what they had to say and it just didn’t sit with me. Right from the beginning of my Vocational Education career, something was just not right. However I continued with the development of my own resources based on the wealth of advice I was receiving.

My first class was a Certificate IV in Web Development and from memory, the unit I had to deliver was in Copyright and Intellectual Property – seriously, can it get any more boring for future programmers? As much as I tried to improve the lesson and engage the students, the resources I had were terrible, even I would’ve fallen asleep in my own class!

I’d like to briefly explain the class I was presented with, and the type of students. I was delivering to students that were generally from a low socioeconomic in South Western Sydney. Their ages ranged from 17 to 55 all with a diverse range of backgrounds and skills. Some of the older students had wanted a career change, others had dabbled in Web Development and thought it would be easy. Some were forced by their parents as one parent said to me ‘He’s on Facebook® all the time, so he should be good at programming’ – seriously, that is what I was told!

Others were there just to tick off the hours they had to do to get the welfare payments. Of all the students, the majority were under prepared and thought it would be an easy ride.

So what do I have to do to keep these students engaged? How can I change the status quo and make a difference in the way I facilitate a class? I spoke with my Head Teacher and asked ‘What are the limits on what I can use to get the content across to these students’? His response, ‘As long as it maps back to the unit, you can do whatever you like!’ – just what I needed to hear!

At the time, there was a movie doing the rounds called The Social Network®. This movie was based on the intellectual property of Facebook® and who owns it and the ensuing battle. I thought to myself ‘This could be used for the copyright unit – if I show the movie we can then discuss how this can be an issue with copyright and intellectual property’. This turned out to be a success. Students were engaged as watching a movie was not something you would expect in a TAFE classroom.

So why did this work? The answer is fairly simple. It’s RELEVANT. Adult learners need to understand that what they are learning is relevant to their lives and their goals. In this case, Facebook® is a big part of most people’s lives. So as future web developers, this was relevant to their life and studies. We still covered all the performance criteria of the unit, but now it was relevant for student, improving retention.

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