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Mexico's Ministry of Education Conference

I presented to a high-level national conference in Mexico on 'Didactic materials to support competency based training: its formats and applications
When Oct 08, 1995
Where Mexico City

Overview of my presentation:

1 Introduction

2 Problems in traditional teaching

3 Open and flexible competency based learning

4 The supportive nature of traditional learning

5 Support for flexible learning

6 Multimedia materials

7 Multimedia is natural

8 Multimedia and the affective side of learning

9 Selecting multimedia materials

10 Developing and distributing multimedia

11 Internet

12 Conclusions

Ciudad de México diary

I went to Mexico to talk to an invited assembly of 70 educationalists, college principals and education ministry people about materials (specifically multimedia computer-based learning materials) for competency-based education. The World Bank have agreed a large loan to Mexico to introduce such training over five years and the Mexicans have pretty much decided to follow the British NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) model.  I was sponsored by AK Vision, the multimedia training software development company based in Ingatestone who have been consulting us recently.

Saturday 7th October
I left for Brentwood BR car park at 9.20 - plane leaves at 12 noon - with the exhaust pipe hanging off the back of the car. Parked, got week's parking ticket for £6, got on train to Stratford, Central to Holborn, Picadilly to Heathrow.  Arrive at check-in at 11.15, warned that the flight is full but get seat in smoking area!
John Gulson (West Herts College and developer of NVQ based multimedia training materials with AK Vision) is on the plane but I don't get to talk because I'm so dozy from the night before.  Nevertheless I watch "While You Were Sleeping", a film I saw with Greta last week, and later wake up enough to finally start to finish the presentation off. We fly over the the Mississipi river and the the Gulf of Mexico. The landing at Mexico City is exciting - the whole city is surrounded by volcanic mountains.  I didn't realise a 747 could bank that far nor that it could be so unbalanced at touch-down. We go through customs which are a literally a lottery.  You press a button and if the light is green you go through and if it is red you stop and they search.  I press first and get lucky, but John goes next and gets searched.  He's not carrying piles of equipment and loads of CDs, but I am! We're met at the airport by Jaime (pronounced Haimi in Mexican Spanish, not Jouma as in Mallorqine Catalan?) who takes us to the hotel after giving us personal invitations from Hector Tello (boss of Harry Mazal - the company sponsoring the event) welcoming us to the country and offering us telephone numbers and details of when we'll meet. We unpack, wash and rest and speculate on Alan Church's (AK Vision boss and sponsor of the event) arrival which is anticipated from New York that evening.  John convinces me that a Mexican MacDonalds Big Mac is the answer to our dreams, but I am only consoled by the hot fudge sundae that appears to be compulsory.  Alan and Larry Rowe (boss of LJ Electronics another company involved in this issue who make training equipment such as electronics test-beds etc) discover us in the hotel bar drowning our sorrows in a Mexican 'Bohemia' beer.

Sunday 8th October
We get up late and have a breakfast in the hotel from a huge range of stuff.  In my enthusiasm I fill my plate with burritos, fried beans and other Mexican stuff.  Its too late to add the bacon, sausages, custom omelettes fried by dusky maidens, fresh fruit I normally see in tins, juice of nearly every description including melon juice, bread, rolls, croissants, pastries, muesli, yoghurt etc
Hector Tello - a big , balding but warm, welcoming man collects us at 12.30 at the hotel, introduces us to Robert Gibb - a colleague at Harry Mazal who is thin, mildly wasted and cynical but cross-cultural (British but lived in Mexico the past 15 years), supportive and helpful - and sweeps us away in a vehicle that closely resembles a furniture store with dralon rotating armchairs, wooden trim, venetian blinds, deep pile carpet and hi-fi system.  He is amusing, amusable and friendly. We go to the hotel in which we are going to present, test all the kit and argue about the position of speakers and screens.  Afterwards we go downtown to an old style authentic Mexican restaurant where we have Tequila, beer and I have chicken in chocolate curry sauce 'Pollo Mole Pol... something'  - yum.  All the time a pianist and violinist are playing. The building is old and atmosphere is like a film.  We have a nice time, have our photograph taken and get to know each other.  Later we return to the hotel to finish the presentation and sleep.

Monday 9th October
Breakfast of bacon, sausages, scrambled egg, hash browns, coffee etc
We start at 9am with John Gulson's speech about NVQs and the UK experience in practice. Halfway through there is an earthquake (7.6 on the Richter scale), the building moves under our feet, and Carlos, a Mexico resident I'm chatting to outside the presentation room, says almost under his breath 'Stop, stop, stop you ****er, stop'. This makes more of an impact on me than the actual event - if he's worried shouldn't I be?. The building creaks asit moves.  It is subtle but unsubtle and lasts longer than you might think or prefer.  When it stops there is universal relief and John finally notices that it's happened and that people have left the room because of it, not because he is boring them to tears.  Some women are particluarly affected and are led out of the room.  Maybe they suffered loss in the 1985 'quake that killed so many in Ciudad de México - certainly they don't feel the need for macho humour.  John restarts after half an hour's delay.  I do my speech, we have lunch, Larry does his, we all take questions.  Two women have been translating in parallel as we speak, effortlessly switching from Spanish to English depending on who is speaking.
Hector takes us to Hacienda Morales?  a beautiful old villa in the city which has been converted to a high class restaurant.  We have beer, tortillas, guacomole, 'weevils', ants' eggs, salsa (of course) to start. I have duckling in sauce and we all taste Hector's balls - bull's balls that is.  Another film atmosphere in dramatic surroundings. Early to bed again.

Tuesday 10th October
Alan goes to talk business with Hector and John and I go on a tour to the Toltec pyramids 45km to the north of the city.  We climb the pyramid of the moon, the pyramid of the sun, get sunburnt (seems reasonable), hassled by Mexicans selling nice souvenirs very cheaply and dehydrate.  A really remarkable place.
We catch the plane at 7.25.

Wednesday 11th October
Arrive Heathrow 12.15.

(Words: 1196 )

Lewis Carroll describes a fictional map that had:

"the scale of a mile to the mile."

A character notes some practical difficulties with such a map and states that:

"we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well."
— Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, Lewis Carroll, 1893

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