Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dear prudence

Part of this morning was spent at somewhere a world away from most larger secondary schools (up to about 2,000 pupils, extensive networks, well honed ICT development plans... well, maybe the first two). The Oaks PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) is in leafy Amersham, down the end of a long road where it looks like there are more people carriers than bikes. The staff who work in places like PRUs constantly amaze me, I visited the Wycombe Grange PRU a few times last year and the immediate feeling was of entering a family's home - one of those big, sprawling, extended, rough around the edges but likely to feature in a documentary somewhere in Liverpool type of families... (ah, that type of family)...
Anyway, the Oaks has 24 pupils. Six per day. The odd thing from a usernames and passwords standpoint is that the Oaks actually has no pupils associated with it - they're all pupils from other schools, referred to the Unit for a variety of reasons. PRUs are in an ideal situation to exploit a VLE - little access to pupils, many of whom are repelled by the idea of being in or near a school building, but dedicated staff who will invest time in supporting individual children. Fortunately with our user database it's possible to associate any pupil (or member of staff, or governor) with any number of schools (e.g regular school and a PRU), so that s/he can use her or his single BucksGfL username to access any Buckinghamshire Moodle on request, as well as webmail and videoconferencing through Breeze. Of course, that's the theory...
The reality is that usernames, an understanding of their importance and a successful implementation of them is (for my money) just about the key thing to making a learning platform or VLE workable. I've had about three conversations this week in various schools where the penny dropped after seeing how the usernames work and how important they are. Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign used a number of points internally to remind staff what was crucial to their success. Number 2 was (famously) The economy, stupid. If you're thinking of implementing any one system alongside any other then keep this mantra in mind (mainly saying it to yourself unless you want to offend people): The usernames, stupid.
As for usernames for parents? Don't even start me on that... that's for another, much longer post than this.
This afternoon was spent meeting an LA person from somewhere in London (call off the LGfL cops, we were only speaking hypothetically about using Moodle, but it's not the first time I've had a conversation like that with someone from inside the M25). Tomorrow I'm off to an LA meeting at Atomwide in Orpington. We'll talk Moodle, Elgg, upgrading to 1.6, server capacity... it's a long way and we start at 10, so I think I need to catch up on my sleep, and fast...

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