Monday, July 03, 2006

Working Smarter Together & A Different Drum

Today was Buckinghamshire's Working Smarter Together conference, held in the sun-baked atmosphere of Green Park near Aston Clinton. It was a day for primary schools in the county to come together and share good, interesting and innovative practice.
The day was based around a number of "stalls" with schools demonstrating what they'd done in things like Teaching and Learning, Networked Learning Communities and also through "learning conversations" - small seminars with schools presenting on what they'd been doing and using that as a stimulus for discussion. Katie Bownes and Emily Harris from Winslow had a stall on their use of WinSLE at Winslow and also led one of the learning conversations in the afternoon. The session was full and a number of people who are already using Moodle in their primary schools were there. I asked everyone present to guide me on the best way to proceed with the funding we have for personalised learning in the County - I've got questions around the best way to deploy CPD to support this. One comment from Paul Adams, who's currently very excited about what's happening on his school's Moodle, concerned whether or not we could fund development of good quality learning resources for Buckinghamshire schools to cover specific areas - something like KS2 Science was mentioned. If there are any providers of content out there and you could consider packaging resources that would sit well on a Moodle site (and no, I'm not talking SCORM here, that means nothing to people in schools - I'm looking along the lines of something that's more than just content, something that uses blogs, wikis, forums, assignments and uses them well) - then get in touch, it'd be nice to have a conversation. (Oh, and hello to all readers who work at RM, by the way).
A number of people in the session will be part of our Wycombe / Beaconsfield Primary VLE Group meeting a week tomorrow at Disraeli School in High Wycombe. We're hoping to have representatives from about 15 schools there and I'm hoping that Tony Richardson from Becta will be able to join us. The meeting will be a "launch meeting" - this is what a learning platform might look like in a primary school, this is what's on offer, here's what Disraeli have done, are you still interested/awake? The rules principles will include:

  • if you share what you create, you can use others' materials that they share
  • if you put the time in, then so will we (support from myself and ICT consultants where appropriate)
  • you'll be able to share resources from elsewhere (the Aylesbury Vale VLE group for example)
  • you should give read-only access to other users within the group to your VLE so they can watch your practise
  • I'll supply the cakes / biscuits / fruit when we meet (if I remember)

We already have one primary school who have encouraged a Governor to develop a Governor's section for their VLE, so that will be available as part of the group.

This all brings to mind a comment I read in what became an increasingly heated debate on VLEs on the naacetalk list, in which Moodle was mentioned a lot. Chris Stolberg (Strategic Technologies Division at DfES) was quoted by an LGfL person as having said "If anyone mentions Moodle and primaries in the same sentence I'll scream". At first I didn't think this was genuine but a certain antipathy towards anything that's not commercial is implied in the videos from the LGfL Learning Platform event... at 6m 12 secs onwards in video 1.

Well Chris, if you ever read this then please come and scream at us in Buckinghamshire - I'll buy you lunch and would love to show you a different way of doing things. I have to say that you seem to be confusing things - the nature of the Open Source licence and the assumption that an LA or RBC have to use a commercial package, while also making the assumption that someone using Open source software must also build it themselves. I wonder where you get your figures of commercial packages costing "a few hundreds or a few thousands of pounds" and Open Source as being "tens of thousands of pounds" (both at 7m 15 secs onwards in Video 1) and I guess that most people at the DfES are unaware that your employer's web site is running on Open Source software. Do you trust the DfES web site? Sorry if this is a bit of a rant, but I hope you can understand where I'm coming from... and as you've already spoken at an RBC that's using an Open Source package as a core part of its Learning Platform offering, I'm sure you know the many ways in which the wind is blowing... so please don't dismiss Open Source out of hand without thinking about it!


  1. Hi Ian,

    Just been looking at the video from LgFL. Chris does give the impression at first that she's very against Open Source software (which is actually contrary to govt policy: ). However she's saying this in the context of encouraging people to use the RBC's/LA's existing systems. The difference in figures that she quotes is between going it alone and using the RBC/LA. I'm not exactly sure how she can back up those figures, but it does seem to make more sense to let the LA take the strain of maintenance etc, just as you're doing in Bucks.

  2. Hi Ian,

    Great blog keep up the good work in Bucks.

    I do work for RM and yes I expect you do have lots of RM readers since we are passionate about ICT in education too.

    For information users with and domain do NOT work for RM this is a domain which was used for email accounts some 8-10 years ago. They are now largely used by LA Naace members

  3. ah yes, I remember now... all of those Headteachers who had "" email addresses - it did seem to say a lot! I don't know if anyone can comment on this, but I was told by an RM-supported primary school yesterday that they weren't allowed to put Google Earth on their RM network unless they could prove to RM that they had an educational use for it. Have they been misinformed?

  4. ...and as regards Chris S's comments, yes, it's clear from the video that she points people towards LA/RBC solutions, I think what prompted the rant at the end of the post was the "scream" about using Moodle in primaries. Installing it and running it on your own web server, a screamable offence in most cases, actually using it, no... I think primaries will hear that and reject it out of hand, when compared to commercial VLE/LP "solutions", it's very suited to primaries due to its innate flexibility.