Wednesday, December 20, 2006

News round up

Lots of things over the past few weeks that have caught my eye and should have been mentioned sooner:
First (and foremost? we shall see...), before or during BETT the "results" of the Becta Learning Services Framework Agreement process will be "announced" to schools, LAs (and anyone else who's listening) - the response to this will probably be an overwhelming "huh?" with scattered "b*gger!" and a 10% risk of "whatever". Now all that needs to happen is that the MIS framework stuff is agreed, so learning platforms can actually happen... mind you, the Becta entry on Wikipedia notes that there were only 11 comments on the MIS consultation over two months - is that encouraging or not?
A couple of things from Bucks were noted in the Guardian eLearning BETT special last week - I of course neglected to buy the paper that day but was given a copy later on after emailing a number of people in a panic. Dan China's (County Art Adviser) use of Flickr got a mention in John Davitt's Q&A section and there was a link to the BucksGfL learning platform presentation from the Naace All Members Annual Conference, bizarrely in the hardware section of the pre-BETT information.
And finally (sorry, began a sentence with "and") here's a nice article written by eight-graders which arrived (in October...) in my Gmail inbox via Google Alerts.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Educational Change & ICT

This morning I got an email from someone called Peter Twining, who I somehow got in touch with while he was part of the eStrategy Implementation Review (eSIR - surely a candidate for "Acronyms you'd like to use in a VLE"?). Anywho, this document reviews Priorities 2 (Integrated online support for children and learners) & 3 (A collaborative approach to personalised learning activities) of the Government's eStrategy and my only tiny, tiny involvement was a web form filling in exercise, followed by a phone interview conducted a long time ago (something tells me it was nearly about a year ago) with someone from the Open University, who were commissioned by Becta to write the report.
The report (PDF, 2MB) makes really interesting reading - bear in mind that this covers FE as well - and has lots of allusions to a "popular open source VLE" that shall not dare speak its name - but it's not a puff piece for anything, more of a very realistic look at the world of educational ICT.
Seriously, the more I read this document the better it gets - there's a lot of common sense out there and it's one of the best (meaning "closest to the real world with all its foibles") documents I've read from Becta plus (hallelujah) it's got a comprehensive Reference section. Get yourself a big cup of tea, a few biscuits (maybe half a pack) and go read...

Jan 2007 edit: here's a podcast interview from Leon Cych at Learn4Life with Peter Twining.

My uncle's name is Nelson

Over the past few days some thoughts about content and what on earth we're going to do with it have been winging their way into my brain. Unaccustomed as I am to their presence, I've been swatting them away but now they've come to rest and are starting to make some sense.
Some of this started due to some work I'm doing with Shane C, our secondary Science consultant. Shane has shedloads of resources for secondary science on video, and he's just recently started enthusiastically putting them onto his own Moodle server (running on his own laptop) ready to share in schools by zipping up the courses (using Backup within Moodle) and then having schools Restore them to place on their own learning environments. Activities, quizzes, forums, etc. within a Moodle course don't take up too much space, but it'll be the course files that do - if there are megabytes and gigabytes of video and other files in each Moodle installation then we might start to have issues with capacity. Shane's been asking if we've got some sort of content repository which could store this on, but as of yet we don't. We've got our Moodle server(s), our Breeze server, our email serv... what? Hang on...

[somewhere, in a darkened room, a light bulb fizzles on]
I've always (both internally and when I've told other people) associated our dedicated Breeze server (soon to be Adobe Acrobat Connect, for what it's worth) with doing Breeze-specific things - videoconferencing, publishing from within PowerPoint, all the usual yadda, just in a very nice way. Then, when Shane was starting to talk about sharing out gigabytes-worth of video files within essentially identical courses across Bucks a large penny dropped somewhere. Essentially, rather than embedding the videos within the course files structure or each course, we simply host them centrally (duh) and then each course links to them. This came out further today when I worked with Rachael S, who's the PE Consultant for Bucks. She has a CD of videos for Able Gifted & Talented work in PE and is only given one copy - so we either duplicate it for hundreds of schools or host it centrally on our BucksGfL Moodle - better still, on the Breeze server. Fortunately the videos are part of a Flash movie on the CD and come as Flash Video FLV format, so uploading them into our Breeze server this afternoon was a, er, breeze (sorry).
As mentioned, Breeze will shortly become Acrobat Connect - so what does the future hold for it? Could it be a way forward for a content repository for us - a huge saving on shelling out on capacity for something else to add in to the mix of services we're offering. What we'd need to do is settle on formats - converting WMV and MPEG to Flash Video format (very handy with 1.6's addition of .flv files to the Multimedia Plugin) and even using something like Flash Paper (which is available to Content Creators as part of Breeze) for other pieces of content, but how far could that go? I'll be really interested to see how things might be delivered - maybe using Flash (or PDF, less likely & desirable in my opinion) as some sort of lingua franca to deliver content to anything - different devices, locations, systems... could Bob really be our uncle, or will our uncle have a different name?

Oh, and in other news, I'm hoping to meet with people from O2 soon to have a look at Moodle with them and see what we can do. Apologies to Orange, I do love your adverts...