Thursday, March 02, 2006

Moodle-on-Sea Part 3a

First session on Thursday morning was Personalised Learning in a Secondary School done by some people from Wildern School in Hampshire. Guess what they're using? A nice implementation, with various modifications to enable interaction with MIS (inlcuding mention of a mythical open-source MIS) although in my view it's not a very sustainable model. One comment I heard was that it's a "virtual teaching environment" - lots and lots of documents uploaded, etc. etc. and the presentation talked about the use of Assessment for Learning but there was no real use of the AFL tools with Moodle, and no ad-hoc use of something like a forum for peer assessment.
Mind Map created during Wildern School VLE presentationThings that I learned or were reinforced by this session - you can also click on the mind map I did during it at right to see it in larger form - were:

  • because (most) students 'get' this much quicker than (some) staff do, any 'student voice' area of a VLE can have explosive growth and provide opportunities for students / pupils to take responsibility, have technical input, maybe evening take some editorial control. This can also permeate into other areas.
  • any successful VLE development will rely on having champions / heroes / the pathologically devoted - however the real test is what happens when they leave? The three staff from Wildern are clearly impassioned and committed, however I feel a real assessment would be obtained by asking those in the school community who aren't leading the VLE project.
  • the wider / larger / scarier national agenda on data transfer means that a school can't simply develop its own data transfer and management structures without worrying about what regional and national requirements are.
  • there's more to a VLE than simply putting everything online (the "paper behind glass" approach) - a careful consideration of how a VLE will affect or reflect classroom practice and a school's culture is really important.
  • is improved student motivation enough on its own to pronounce any ICT implementation? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, I'm unsure...

Second session (where I'm sitting now) is Blogging in Schools with David Ford - the theme tune it starts off with the opening track from A Grand Don't Come For Free - big grins all round.
Apparently there are 8 people in the room with blogs... should you care, the FrapprMap will show you where they are. While you're there why not look at the UKMoodlers or WorldMoodlers maps as well?
Unsurpringly for this conference, where the unreliabilty of access to the internet in every location (including the conference centre), there's no or at best a "here for five seconds, gone for ten minutes" access to the internet... hmm.
David was really good and, lack of internet access notwithstanding, there were lots of good thoughts about the ethos (or the "why?") of blogging in schools As good as anything I've heard since Alan November spoke on blogs - although more impassioned and with an angle more relevant to the UK education environment.
With the advent of blogs (replacing the Journal module) in Moodle 1.6, I'll be interested in a practical, sustainable implementation of this publishing tool. David outlined classes of blogs...

  • Secret garden - within a school or class, only acccessible from there
  • Walled garden - something like Think.com
  • One way street - a blog with comments turned off
  • Automatic traffic management - moderation of comments, automatic email notification of comments, posts etc.
  • Two-way traffic - usual commenting on blogs
  • Spaghetti junction - multi-author collaborative environments

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