Friday, September 29, 2006

We B(e)BC Jammin' at Naace

I'm at the Naace All Members Annual Conference - about twenty-four hours in all, held at the Cisco HQ in Bedmont Lakes near Heathrow. I'm currently in a session on BBC Jam presented by Neil Livesey. Visit the web site to find out more - this is more about how the content would be delivered - for example via SCORM 2004, SIF, Federated Authentication (I'm assuming that's going to mean Shibboleth). SCORM 2004 will mean that the content will be useable in any of our school's Moodles. From what he's saying it looks like BBC Blast and any other online BBC educational services will work with Shibboleth, which is good news for those schools using BucksGfL usernames. It will also work with caches such as the Atomwide CachePaq - which means schools will be able to preload content on their local cacheing server. English 5-7 with stories from Jackanory? Ah, the cockles of my heart are warmed... the French stuff looks good (the language as it's spoken by French kids rather than conversational French in textbooks), as does the History material. It's designed for learners to use themselves at their own pace, as well as being used in class. The interface looks nice and customisable, but the real test would come by working out how it would interoperate with a VLE or Learning Platform.

Speaking of Learning Platforms, after this I'm speaking on Learning Platforms - Update & Exemplification - which sounds like a bit of a mouthful and I don't think is the title I gave, but never mind. Let's subtitle it Building a Sustainable Learning Platform in Buckinghamshire and see what happens... if I remember I'll post the PowerPoint here later, although it's not necessary a linear one...
Just a brief note, someone's asked at the end if the SCORM content will be useable in Moodle - so up comes Neil's Moodle server (!) at and we're looking at the French 11 to 14 content now...
(big grin... :-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The closest thing I've seen to here

This from Desire2Blog (from Desire2Learn, They Who Are Being Sued By Blackboard). It's the closest thing I've seen to what I'd like to achieve here in Buckinghamshire, although maybe the UK context makes things more complicated in this neck of the woods, I'm not sure...

Open Source Integration: " Very interesting project started about a month ago over at in an effort to integrate four useful open source tools into an environment that would have lots of features for e-learning. The tools they are working with are Elgg, Drupal, Moodle, and Mediawiki. This integration should result in the following features being offered: a public facing web presence departmental intranets club/extracurricular sites online class sites a personal workspace for all members of the school community; this workspace includes web-accessible file storage, social bookmarking, a blog, a podcasting platform, and a presentation/portfolio creator a single user base -- no duplicate data entry, no need to synchronize users between multiple databases. Additionally, these technologies/approaches are supported: Podcasting Safe social networking Tagging Informal learning Learner centric ePortfolios Personal Learning Environments Blogging Wikis They are still looking for development help in the form of developers, designers, educators and funding bodies. Check them out. This is an ambitious undertaking..."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Are you work experienced?

This morning was an early start (for me) to get to Wye Valley in Bourne End by 8.30. A pilot group of 10 KS4 students are starting work experience on Monday and are going to use WyeVLE to record their work experience diaries. Across Buckinghamshire we (well, Atomwide) are currently upgrading our school Moodles from 1.5.n to 1.6.n – it’s a shame this hadn’t happen earlier as I’d like to have explored if and how we might have used the new Database module to achieve this. I don’t think the Blogs feature in 1.6 is mature enough to use at the moment – it seems to be abstracted from the context of a course and isolated in a Moodle site. Considering that it was once intended to replace the Journal module, that’s a shame. In the end we’ve created multiple assignments, one for each day, and provided a template web page for students to copy into their blank journals. I did experiment with using the Wiki module last night but it’s not really flexible and intuitive enough to use at the moment.
Sometimes I’d love to ‘train’ staff and students in the same room – just for the moment when the students started to accelerate away from the majority of the staff… after five or ten minutes the students were up to speed (of course they were) and the hardest thing for them to get was how filling in a work experience diary might fit in with being on a WE placement. We showed them the internal messaging system, explained how to edit their profiles and let them know that the logs are there… the interesting thing will be to see how often their teachers log in…

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I hate it when the schools go back After a frustratingly lengthy journey I arrived a not-very-classy hour and ten minutes later than I’d planned at the Feltham CLC – the City Learning Centre which serves local schools, businesses & the community and is part of the London Grid for Learning. I’d been asked to go there by Renaldo Lawrence - The Tallest Man In Educational ICT (or so it feels) – a few months ago I wrote about how I hosted a couple of people from London who were enquiring about Moodle, and today’s training was the consequence of that. Eight people from the Feltham CLC and another CLC were there – they have a Moodle server with the I wish I’d thought of that name Glenn Miller-inspired (maybe) The CLC will take students from a range of local schools and offer them studies online using Moodle. It was similar but very different from Monday’s training – even though half of the people hadn’t really seen Moodle before, after a few hours we were uploading video, audio, animations and thinking about a structure for the site – this was after creating quizzes, assignments, adding RSS feeds and, and, and… it was really good and was a situation where I felt stretched in thinking about what Moodle can and can’t do – which doesn’t happen that often with so many people just starting out.
For me (and for at least one or two people there) the most novel thing we did was incorporate a complete SCORM package from the LGfL resources held in DigitalBrian - in this case one on making masks (see images right and below). It was significant enough to make us realise that it would be a very straightforward thing to do to move lots of content from the LGfL portal into any Moodle web site. So come on LGfL... take the orange pill?!
SCORM package in Feltham CLC's MoodleIt was a good (if long) day – the building’s great, it seems like a great place to work – and everyone was very keen and (I think) convinced that it’s really quite easy to get going in Moodle - they should definitely get in touch with the folks at Stockton CLC.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A trojan but not a virus

I’m sat in the Teaching and Learning Centre in the middle of a presentation about a virtual learning environment from a major ICT provider (previously mentioned elsewhere in these pages). It’s interesting because this provider has already approached a number of people in the authority (including your narrator) about this product, but we’ve said a firm but polite “no thanks”. So how come they’re here today? Well, this VLE comes a bundled with a particular Maths product – I’ve heard it described as a Trojan horse with the word “Alive” printed on the outside. So some of our schools which use the Maths product find that they get a VLE by default - and hence the company are here today, describing the Maths product but also getting a plug for the VLE in as well. This is the provider that has asked a well known educational blogger to advise it on all things Web 2.0 – which seems like a cursory nod to social networking aspects of learning, so expect the next version (or next but two or three) to involve exciting 'new' things like blogs and wikis!!!
Here’s an interesting claim – “the unique thing about this is that it can import a whole folder structure”. (ahem) Unique? OK, we’ll just assume that the ability to zip up a series of folders, upload the zip file and unzip it doesn’t exist anywhere else.
It’s described as a “teacher tool” – very interesting, much momentum at the moment is basing things around the needs of the learner and putting the learner at the centre of what's going on (and hence more in control of their own learning). A comment from a headteacher I’ve encountered was that this system reinforces the notion that the teacher controls learning and dispenses it to students – hence the acronym VTLE…
We’re now moving into a practical time – which should be interesting.
The quizzing engine is very basic - no space for feedback for incorrect answers, short answer questions have to be marked manually, no option of matching questions and no apparent option for importing any standard question formats. One of the exciting things about working with lots of schools in Moodle will be creating a series of banks of questions shared between schools and classes, which has a lot of potential if the number of questions generated during yesterday’s Inset is anything to go by.
The process for setting up an assignment is incredibly laborious – six stages, some of which are unfeasibly complicated. I can’t imagine an ‘average’ teacher having the time (or patience) to work through the process – it only just makes sense to me, and apparently I’m paid to look at this sort of stuff all day.

Kaleidos screenshotKaleidos screenshot
Kaleidos screen shotKaleidos "hand in" screen 3 of 6 (!)
Kaleidos screenshotKaleidos screenshot
Kaleidos "hand in" screen 6 of 6...Creating a resource step one of four...

My overall impression? It’s very comprehensive – there is shedloads of content, all linked to various national frameworks but it’s far, far, far, far, far too complex to use for most staff. I would have been absolutely terrified to have to explain this system to the primary staff yesterday. One other thought – I guarantee there are Moodle installations kicking around in Abingdon…

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Primary to Secondary

Today I’ve been at Winslow CE Combined for an Inset day – almost all of the teaching staff (including the Head) and some staff from nearby Padbury were involved. We started off with a brief overview of what had been done previously on WinsLE – with lots of useful explanation and putting-it-in-context from Emily Pool and Katie Bownes (ICT Co-ord and Assistant HT/Art Co-ord respectively). Everyone logged in using the BucksGfL usernames and had the opportunity to have a go at quizzes, assignments, forums and view some static resources which we’d set up in a test course for the staff. After a break for coffee we moved to a different course (“The Sandpit”) in which everyone was a teacher with editing rights. Everyone had a topic to themselves, so we walked through Moodle creating a simple Resource (a web link), everyone created a Choice activity and then moved on to making a Quiz. Judging by a couple of people’s responses at the start (“I hate this sort of thing!”) I thought it might have been a struggle for some people but everyone made a quiz – it was (and they were) fantastic. There were some excellent examples of innovative ways of using the HTML editor to prepare interesting choices and quiz questions. The great thing about working in a group like this all at once is that everyone immediately gets to see other people using what they’ve just created – and can experience what others have done to get ideas and inspiration. By the end of it we had 24 choices and 17 quizzes containing 34 quiz questions. Lots of them were (obviously) just ‘testing the water’ sort of questions but it’s a good model of how we could get a group of subject co-ordinators (either primary or secondary) together and prepare a whole raft of categorised quiz questions which could be shared throughout the count(r)y…
One thing that’s been exercising my mind over the last few months is at what age it’s appropriate to start using something like Moodle. When chatting with the Year 5 & 6s at the end of last term they said that they had younger siblings (as young as Year 3) who would like to do things on WinsLE. At the start of today we speculated that the KS1 staff might like to concentrate on preparing a staff area, but it became clear fairly quickly that they could find lots of application for Choices and Resources within Moodle. The only issue we need to address is – from what age might/should we reasonably expect children to log in. If you’ve got any experiences about what works and what doesn’t… please leave a comment!
In the afternoon I went to John Hampden Grammar school in High Wycombe, who are going to be using their Moodle (note to self: Need To Christen This One With A Short Name Ending In LE”) to support the teaching of business and enterprise in the school. The Bucks Education Business Partnership is carrying out an audit of Enterprise Skills and we’ll be working with a small group of KS4 students to allow them to carry out the audit online.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Secondary to Primary

This morning was spent at an Inset at Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School in Aylesbury on Challenge For All – run by Bob Cox, the Able, Gifted & Talented adviser from the School Improvement Service (of course, I’d contend that lots of us might be any of those three, but Bob gets to be all three…). Geoff Lambrechts (ICT consultant) and I worked with the ICT staff (including the new headteacher) to explore how we might use the SHF VLE (installed just in time that morning by the ever-speedy Richard at Atomwide) to support work with AG&T students in ICT. Hopefully it’ll be the start of work in secondary schools in Aylesbury Vale – Geoff is looking to co-ordinate things with a meeting of Heads of ICT so that we can start to share things at secondary level.
Immediately after that I dashed to Amersham to visit the Oaks Primary PRU (Pupil Referral Unit). This is a very different application – the Head there wants to start using Moodle to share resources with parents, pupils (who aren’t attached to the Oaks, just referred there from other schools) and possibly other professionals such as police and social care staff. I can’t wait for the new roles architecture that’s coming in the next but one version of Moodle – however, we need to think about how we handle accounts for those who aren’t in a school every day – such as parents, inspectors, social care staff… create accounts for all of those (and attach the accounts to a school) and it’s a short hop to the school becoming a mini-ISP (20 external users a day phoning for help and/or new passwords as they’ve forgotten their existing one? “No thanks” would be the answer from most schools…). In the near future Mrs Conway-Read (the Head at The Oaks) hopes to do some work with people from Stockton CLC in the area of eTwinning – and if you followed this summer’s UK MoodleMoot you might recall that Val Brooks from Stockton CLC presented there – so it looks like there’s a lot of mileage here.

Intel distributes Moodle...

Intel ropes in Xpress Computers to market school kit
I don't know. Another organisation I've never heard of using Moodle. (Intel who?) When will these people learn that it's (a) not sustainable (b) not something people in authority understand and (c) akin to being a small boy playing in a garden shed. Tsk...