Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rural East Sussex

Today I'm at Alfriston in East Sussex to deliver three parallel sessions at the Personalisation Through Learning Platforms conference organised by CfBT, who I also did a presentation for earlier in the year at the University of Sussex.

The keynote this morning has been Norman Crawford, formerly of Tameside MBC (where Moodle is offered to their schools as a VLE) who's now Assistant Director for the eStrategy at Becta. His talk made some good points about how schools need to set the agenda for learning platform functionality to vendors rather than simply accepting what's offered.
This is clearly the most salubrious place I've ever attended a conference - the room I'm presentation in has easy chairs and sofas in it, for crying out loud. I get scared of doing the same presentation everywhere (a la Alan November) so this was one which reflected the work being done at Buckingham Primary School using Moodle which was demonstrated yesterday at the Aylesbury Vale Primary Learning Platforms meeting.
Lots of the discussion that I've heard from delegates (mainly ICT co-ords and some Heads) has been around what they see the LA doing - will it be proactive, reactive or simply playing catchup? Donna Rogers from Kent County Council has done a presentation in the graveward slot after lunch (brief summary of message - Kent are following a Microsoft Active Directory / Sharepoint / etc. route).
Tim Eaglestone (ICT Adviser for East Sussex) is addressing the issues across the County - it's interesting to see another LA's approach to this. One of my own criticisms of our own approach in Buckinghamshire is that (on some levels) it is a one size fits all approach - however, particularly in the case of primary schools, they aren't always in a position to make informed decisions on this (and most Learning Platform offerings are heavily skewed towards secondary schools, anyway), so I still think that offering a "turnkey" system has its advantages - especially when schools want to work together. This in turn affects what secondaries will do and it's my opinion that most secondaries who see beyond their own school boundary will want to build on what primaries have already been doing with children, rather than pretending such work didn't exist. The advice to schools is to follow the Becta Learning Platforms Matrix (a good thing, when the site's working) is useful and essential foundational work to any school looking at moving forward in this area.
Oh, and East Sussex now joins the roster of Local Authorities (Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Slough) from whom individual schools have at some point asked "How do we become part of Buckinghamshire?"... are we doing something right? Who knows... more importantly, who will tell us if we are?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Aylesbury Vale Primary

Today Geoff L (ICT Consultant) and I have been leading a meeting of primary schools in the Vale of Aylesbury area of the County who might be interested in starting to use Moodle. It's going to be a difficult job to get all of the schools in the County to a point where they are ready to meet the DfES / Becta targets of 2006.
Paul A and Emily P from two of our primary schools already using Moodle did brief presentations on what they've been doing over the last few months - and once again I was reminded of how far we've come, of the fact that a lot of what we're working on in this area is what schools are looking for anyway, and how of the fact that by attaching deadlines and targets to this sort of thing it's possible to make schools back away from it, when what it's fundamentally about are those sorts of things that they'd want - independent learning, broadening access to learning, involving parents and carers, and, and, and...
Paul showed some fantastic work from his school's Moodle in terms of use by the School Council, Creativity in Literacy (a fantastic poetry section populated by dozens and dozens of peer-reviewed poems) and a really interesting section where the pupils were uploading examples of their own work. Once we'd enabled the MP3 multimedia plugin for Moodle 1.6 (all the servers have recently been upgraded) it meant that any uploaded MP3 automatically gets a little Flash play-bar next to it, which makes the accessibility of the media files that little bit easier.
We left it that the schools there will get a Moodle in the New Year unless they tell us otherwise - it will be interesting to see who says "no thanks!".