Tuesday, February 06, 2007

(av)ian flu can't quite better Breeze and BPS

I've been up to my eyes in flu (normal flu, not bloke flu or bird flu) since the weekend - and today, foolishly thinking I was over it, I kept two important appointments which were both, in their own way, extremely rewarding.

This morning Lindsey Thomas (the secondary English consultant from the Bucks Teaching & Learning Centre) and I were at Princes Risborough School to work with a small group of Year 9s on their speaking and listening coursework based on Romeo & Juliet. It's obvious why an English consultant would be there, but me? Well, we were trying a new approach to this coursework - namely the students would be producing their work as a Breeze (which will be called Connect when our server's upgraded) presentation and publishing it online. Each student was given the text from Romeo & Juliet as a PowerPoint presentation and then provided with a number of images which, if required, could be used to illustrate their presentations. The aim of the session was to produce fruit from all the planning which Lindsey, and staff at the school, had done with the students in previous weeks. Planning sheets were unfolded, notes were written and then after a little introduction to narrating a presentation within Breeze, the students set about narrating their presentations. Each one worked on a laptop with a headset and after some initial reticence (after all, everyone hates hearing their own voice, don't they?) they took to it. We learned a lot from the day, the the overwhelming response from the students was that they loved it - especially one of the group who suffered from dyslexia. We've opened up a small area on the PRS Moodle to support the students and demonstrate on a small scale what Moodle can do in conjunction with Breeze/Connect. This is the sort of project which will benefit from another look in the near future - and if I can, I'll publish some examples of the work here. Apparently "people from the National Strategy" are quite interested. Whatever that means...
I left Princes Risborough early as I had to head up north (in the county) to Buckingham, where Merlin John (former editor of the withdrawn TES Online section, though I bet he hates being known as that - see his site for a more up to date picture and some interesting articles) was at Buckingham Primary School. Merlin was there on behalf of the NCSL as part of their SLICT programme to talk to Paul Adams about the school's use of Moodle . BPS is a SLICT reference school (not sure if that's the right term) and Merlin wanted to find out more about the school's approach to its learning environment in terms of leadership, and then to chat with me briefly about what's happening here in Buckinghamshire. I arrived just as Paul was returning to the classroom so Merlin and I chatted for about an hour, it was really interesting to get a broad perspective on the area of learning platforms from someone who's clearly been more immersed in it for a longer time than I have.
Sometimes I can sense that when I talk about the work we're doing in Buckinghamshire, it can naturally focus on a few schools, the early adopters and those who look like they're more keen. I can also sense an unspoken comment "well, you've obviously spent an inordinate amount of time in that school so you can use it as a showpiece". BPS has some of the most interesting work on a Moodle I've ever seen - and today was the first time I'd ever visited. I guess that validates what Merlin was there to discover - how good strategic leadership of ICT can make a school self-sufficient in ways lots of schools aren't. Check out the VLE display on the wall at BPS - complete with a real keyboard! Apologies that it's out of focus - I forgot my camera and had to take a snap on my rapidly fading cameraphone...

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