Our very first blog

Hello and welcome to our very first blog - we are delighted you are here!

May I begin by introducing myself? My name is Pauline Park and I thought I’d give you a wee bit of background about me and what led me to writing this blog for you.

Ok, so where to begin?

Well, after working in the travel industry for a few years, I started teaching Travel and Tourism at a college in Glasgow in 1994 (yep, you read that right!). So, I’m, like, really old! 😊

Pauline Park - The Travel Training Academy

A gap in the market

Anyway, my fellow lecturer Kenneth Park (and now my husband, but that’s a story for another day!) were a bit frustrated at the “gap” between what we knew was happening in the travel industry and what was being taught in colleges, so we set out to fill this gap!

In 2007, Mondrago  (named after a beach in Majorca in case you were wondering!) was born and our very first product was Learn2Book- a simulation of a tour operator’s reservation system that allowed students to make package holiday bookings without the need of a live system. 

(Quick story- we once had a student who went out on a work placement to a local travel agent and booked herself on a trip to Ibiza! The college then had to stump up the cash! I don’t know how she ever thought she’d get away with it??)

When we launched Mondrago, we had two very young children. We made the very brave (or stupid- you decide!) decision for me to drop my hours to allow us to develop our courses and be there for the kids as they grew up- because we all get how hard childcare can be, right?

So, after Learn2Book came Learn2CheckIn which allowed students to check-in passengers and board flights on a simulated check-in system and this was followed by Learn2BookaRoom (a hotel reservation and check-in simulator).

Learn2CheckIn allows students to check-in passengers and board flights on a simulated check-in system

The financial crash

Things went along swimmingly for a while, then the financial crash happened. Things didn’t really change in FE for the first couple of years, then bit-by-bit, funding seemed to dry up and many colleges didn’t really have the money for our courses anymore ☹

We were always being contacted by individuals wanting help with recruitment for travel jobs and that was a move we made for a few years by introducing New2Crew Academy a membership site for those keen to work in travel. We still had colleges using our courses- not as many as before the financial crash - and they were keen for us to add to our portfolio.

So, over the last few years we have added Learn2BeARep (where we follow Cara, right from the day she applies, to the end of her first week as a rep- all done cartoon style) and Learn2BeCabinCrew, which is an online version of a cabin crew training course.

Now, dare I say it, but there seems to be a new dawn on the horizon and things (finally) seem to be looking up for FE. So, Kenneth and I spent all last year updating all our courses and for the first time ever, they are all available under the one banner- the Travel Training Academy.

And, all this time, I was still teaching one day a week. Because, believe it or not, more than 25 years later, I still love teaching!

Why this blog?

So, (finally!) to the purpose of this blog!

I was reading an article recently and a lightbulb went off in my head! (Does that happen to you, or I am I the only weirdo round here?!)

This article (which was in the Times Educational Supplement) was about collaboration being more useful than Ofsted.

So, to summarise the article, according to research carried out by Birmingham City University (thank you to them!), college lecturers, like you and I, believe collaboration with other lecturers has a much bigger impact on improving teaching standards, then Ofsted inspections.

Researchers found that informal conversations with fellow lecturers and sharing best practice most effectively contribute to raising standards than formal inspections.

Participants to the study said that talking about classroom practice and sharing of resources had been “a breath of fresh air”.

One said: “I hated being observed and graded. Did nothing for my teaching”.

Other interesting findings from the research:

  • Teachers are best placed to improve teaching and learning by identifying and targeting their own professional needs.
  • Time should be provided for teachers to interact with each other to discuss their ideas and reflect on practice, through regular on-going informal interactions (good luck convincing your senior managers on that one!)

“We agree that college teachers are best placed to drive improvement in teaching and learning”.

Let us know your thoughts

What do you think? Why not tell us your thoughts in the comments below?

Do, you know, when I read this article it felt like vindication to Kenneth and myself?

We’ve always believed that, as teachers, we are best placed to know what we need to improve on.

And that’s what led to the creation of the Travel Lecturer’s Lounge on Facebook a couple of years ago. And if you’re not in there, fancy joining? As you can tell, from our very imaginative name (!), we are a group for anyone teaching Travel and Tourism here in the UK. You can find us at- https://www.facebook.com/groups/travellecturerslounge/

So, we wanted to create a place where travel lecturers could come together and share ideas and we’re very proud of our wee group! We also wanted it to be a place where we could share good practice and Kenneth posts a resource on a Monday morning as some motivation for the week ahead!

We have then decided to take this idea of resource sharing one step further and start a blog. I blog regularly for New2Crew Academy and it’s an effective way of creating community and sharing resources, so I thought why not give it a try for the Travel Training Academy?

And here we are- the very first blog!

So, what’s the point of this blog?

Well, our plan is to post monthly. What we plan to do is write a blog post around things we have found useful in our own classrooms and we would like to share with you.

Now, here’s a wee disclaimer here!

Kenneth and I both started teaching on the same day way back in 1994 (yes, our eyes really did meet over a crowded classroom ha ha!), so between us we have over 50 years of teaching experience (eeek!)

Pauline and Kenneth Park - The Travel Training Academy

We both have post-graduate teaching qualifications. Kenneth’s first degree is in Tourism and Hospitality and I have a master’s degree in Tourism. Like me, Kenneth has experience working in the travel industry having worked for the Scottish Tourist Board, several travel agencies and a few seasons as a holiday rep. in Majorca and the Algarve.

So, I’d like to think that we do know our stuff! Over the last decade Kenneth has combined his role as Senior Lecturer in Travel and Tourism with his other role as an (award-winning!) learning technologist so he’s good at the techie stuff as well!

We’ve both always received high praise from our students (though what they say behind our back could be another thing altogether!)

 

"But what we are trying to say is that although we’ve been doing this a long time and are happy to share our experience, we are not trying to say that our classes are somehow amazing and any better than anyone else’s. They are simply classes and resources that have worked well for us and we are happy to tell you about them."

The resources we plan to share will come from a range of sources. As Kenneth is a learning technologist, he’s great at finding great stuff on the web. I’m more likely to tell you about activities that I used in my classroom that worked well. Our own college do have access to the Travel Training Academy, and I do use it extensively in my teaching so often the resource will form part of the Academy.

Each month, we will add this resource to our Learning Resource Centre and hopefully build a library of useful resources that all travel and tourism lecturers can access whenever they like. Wouldn’t that be brilliant?

Fancy sharing your experience

But we don’t want this to be all about us. Because how boring would that be?

So, what we would love is for you to become involved as a guest blogger! Ever fancied blogging? Well, this is your chance. And, you don’t need to worry about all the technical issues relating to creating a blog- we’ll take care of that.

So, if you’ve done a class that you’re really pleased with, simply type it up on a word document and send it to me (pauline@mondrago.org) along with the resources you used, and we can get it uploaded into the Learning Resource Centre.

It’s always struck me as mad that we are all so incredibly busy and under so much pressure to produce high quality teaching material week in and week out.

Why not share instead? Listen, we live in a sharing economy (Uber, Airbnb etc.) so why don’t we get with the zeitgeist and get sharing as well?

So, in the comments below, why not tell us what resources you’d like to see added to our Learning Resource Centre?

And, if you fancy some guest blogging, either email me (pauline@mondrago.org) or leave us a contact email in the comments below and let’s get sharing!

Because the more we share, the less we have to prepare! And the less prep.  we have, the more time we’ll have to do the things we love to do.

Which, for me, is walking my beloved dog, Eddie.

Pauline Park with Eddie

What would you do with your extra time? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading our very first blog and speak to you next month.

Love

Pauline x

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