Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Meeting Becta - but not in a shed

Today Steve Snowball, Mark Granger & Steve Whiting from West Sussex CC and I met with Robin Ball (Project Manager for Learning Services at Becta) - a meeting which came out of the Learning Platforms Roadshow at Maidenhead after Barry Kruger gave the Becta presentation there. Barry's left Becta now, but he or Robin gave the same presentation at the roadshows - you can view Robin's SWGfL presentation online - but don't worry, he's not that red in real life. If you didn't get to a LP Roadshow then this is a useful presentation - the slides are also available.
Something that I'd heard from West Sussex Not a boy, but definitely a shed...previously was the seemingly random nature of the DfES contributions to the LP Roadshows - the Becta ones were all very similar, as-seen-in-the-above-video but the DfES ones were more variable - sounding individuals' opinions rather than an agreed DfES outlook. I'm told that at one of the events one DfES contributor in particular gestured to the commercial providers around the room and stated to the assembled schools words to the effect of these people have the knowledge and will show you how to do online learning. Reports that a large ker-ching sound was heard from the back of the room may have been exaggerated, but I doubt it. The same speaker also referred to people using Moodle as (again, words to the effect of) boys playing in garden sheds - I'd love to know what (a) the Open University, (b) the many women who run and use Moodle and (c) anyone who runs a WAN from their garden shed would say in response to that.
The day was a very useful discussion and allowed us to show Robin what was going on in West Sussex and Buckinghamshire. In return he pointed us towards the NCSL/Becta Matrix site - and in particular the Learning Platform Functionality Matrix, which allows schools to assess how ready they are for elements of a Learning Platform, and also allows LAs to aggregate that information to see how schools are doing.
In the afternoon we visited Winslow CofE Combined school, where they've been using Moodle since the start of this calendar year. In action were Year 5, using the learning environment to undertake their Desert Island extended writing project. This is a project that is offered both as an online piece of work or a 'traditional' paper-based exercise - all the kids have taken to it and we were able to talk to them about how they found it. The overall impression - well you'd expect me to say this, but they liked it, were comfortable with it and we saw it being introduced to them by a class teacher who clearly took it in her stride, as did they...

All in all, a really useful day - for us and I hope for Robin (and thus Becta) too.