Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chris Wood - LGfL Platform Manager - The Learning Platform Landscape

This session purports to give an overview of Learning Platforms - it'll be interesting to see if it gives a genuine overview, or just a London-centric view of the world.

The first controversial assertion is that primary schools don't really need a learning environment - with some quite honestly really-backwards looking opinions about the capability to use them within primary (except at upper Key Stage 2, apparently). This view takes the view that VLEs are for school organisation and organisation of learning resources - a really small-scale vision, if it can be called that. Are we as local authority advisers in a position to decide when schools can and can't start using this technology? That doesn't seem very personalised to me.

An example of this is in the "when do you give out usernames?" - now until recently the 'bottom limit' of this for us when talking with schools (from their experience) has been Year 3 - however the other day I spoke to someone from one of our primary schools using Moodle - she said "we give out usernames halfway through Year 2 for kids to take home" - should I make that decision on behalf of the school or should the school? Not really much of a question there...

Now on to the past of the LGfL Learning Platform - Digitalbrain was started as the VLE in London in 2001 ("too early" apparently). The area of implentation issues is highlighted again - and includes a link to the Implementation Advice published on LGfL. Basically, Digitalbrain didn't do much for the last two years and then had to re-write their entire offering in Java - an interesting move, as this would bring stability and compatibilty issues. Digitalbrain didn't get onto the Framework because they failed at the financial hurdle - something I'd heard for a while before the Framework was announced but didn't know the reason behind it.

Apparently Fronter is not a replacement for Digitalbrain in London. DB remains the VLE option and Fronter is the MLE option. The anticipation is that primaries will stick with DB (bless, because it can't do that much) and secondaries will go to Fronter.

This has been an OK presentation but doesn't do what it says on the tin - even if was just one person's viewpoint, an overview of the Learning Platform Landscape, trends, etc. would have been nice. I feel I know a lot about London's story but not about the general LP sphere.

It's now covering AJAX (so very fresh and new) and (oooh) Google Documents etc. A question's asked about ownership of teacher uploaded content to the VLE - does the LGfL have a policy on this? The answer is that (apparently) if teachers create resources in work time it's owned by your employer, if it's outside of work time it's owned by the creator. I know which I'd rather. There's a question about SIF and how that links the Shibboleth - lots of answers but Atomwide (who did 90% of the work which won the LGfL the Computer Award for Public Sector Projects) aren't mentioned. An interesting session if you want to know about London, but those looking for a comprehensive view of the landscape might have to look elsewhere.


  1. Hi Ian,

    Great coverage of the conference although judging from the last few posts I'm glad I couldn't make it :o)

    One thing though, SIF and Shibb? What question have been raised about how they link?

    SIF handle system-to-system automated data sharing. So Learning Services, MIS and other systems can share data across a school/LA/Government.

    Shibb handles federated authentication. So organisations in a federation can support a single sign-on network across their relevant services.

    ...anyway, keep these posts coming they've been a good read and just the right size.



  2. "This has been an OK presentation but doesn't do what it says on the tin - even if was just one person's viewpoint, an overview of the Learning Platform Landscape, trends, etc. would have been nice. I feel I know a lot about London's story but not about the general LP sphere."

    This session made my ears bleed. Never been so bored in my life.

  3. Hi Ian,

    I hope you don't mind if I try to put some of the comments into context.

    The talk was certainly intended to provide a London perspective, the previous two talks that morning from Becta and Stephen Heppel had already talked about generalities.

    What I said quite clearly was that "I don't believe a learning platform is a critical application in a primary in the same way that it is in a secondary school. They don't need them in the way that secondaries NEED them." The emphasis was on how important they are in secondaries.

    I went on to say that learning platforms can enhance what a primary offers but that to date the majority of use we have observed in schools are website and staff related rather than using true individual online learning spaces for the children. That wan't presented as a vision, more an observation.

    I'm happy to stand by the comment that I think upper key stage 2 are the children who will get the most benefit from individual use. If you've ever looked in children's trays in primary you'll know about the challenge for them to be self organised. To abstract self management online is a reasonably sophisticated concept. It's nothing to do with children managing software, it's that I'm not convinced it's worthwhile before upper KS2. I do try to keep an open mind though and enjoy a reasoned debate.

    I certainly never said that the anticipation is that primaries will still take advantage of digitalbrain "because it can't do much", on the contrary, I think it offers a great deal for primaries, but I also mentioned that price would be a large factor to consider to upgrade to the new MLE. What is on offer from Digitalbrain for the price LGfL paid, is certainly remarkable.

    Lastly, to clarify, the policy of copyright for content isn't LGfL's, it is something every LA has in place for it's employees, whether or not they choose to enforce it.

    I hope you don't mind me chipping in...

    Chris Wood
    LGfL Platform Manager

  4. Well said Chris