Wednesday, March 14, 2007

No Jam tomorrow

There were inklings of this a while ago, but now it's finally happened... at lunchtime today I saw on the BBC News site that the BBC is suspending its Jam service (see also the press release) - online teaching resources which pretty much removed the need for teachers to support them or schools to deliver them. The announcement was made today by the BBC Trust - the service will remain open until the 20th March 2007.

It comes about after complaints from BESA, the British Educational Software Assocation, that the BBC was parking its publicly funded tanks on their commercial lawn by offering this content for free. The service has been live for 14 months since Jan 2006 and the BBC was planning on investing £150m over five years - half of the this has already been spent.
Well, I for one am a little gutted... we were hoping to host the SCORM versions of what is excellent content centrally in Bucks so schools could use them if they wanted to - actually, as the Jam stuff is very learner-centred, I'd say that BESA has inadvertantly kicked the learner in the teeth here. It would have been great to put things in the hands of learners (as part of our ePortfolio developments) which let them control their learning, instead we're left with the same old same old...
The interesting thing about the Jam materials was that they weren't controlled by schools, mediated by teachers, or anything like that. The learner registered, gave their age and where they were from, and then controlled their own learning. Crumbs, that almost sounds like personalisation - but maybe what BESA is on about is a world where personalisation is mediated through staff armed with eLCs... that's one method of personalisation, but is it the only one? Ker-ching...
My mind goes back to a Naace conference in 2002, at which Lewis Bronze and a representative from BESA started this whole process off with a presentation entitled "Choice for Schools" - it was a very odd moment, and one which at the time felt like the Naace platform had been hijacked to project a certain view of the world - it was very campaigning and not very neutral. I can't find any Naace history about it, but The Register has a relevant post about the general feel... (more here) some of the quotes there make very interesting reading given the passing of five (five!) years.
Has it come to pass? Last time I looked Espresso had a huge stand at BETT, BETT itself felt like it had more people in corporate clothing (primary coloured polo shirts, mainly) and more shedloads of cash being splurged than ever before - something which increases every year. Are these really the death throes of a struggling software industry? It seems to me that the BBC has taken a different approach to personalising things to the "don't let the learners personalise it" method favoured by most people at BETT (there's a reason kids aren't allowed in, and I don't think it's 'cos they'd miss school). Maybe people are just jealous of the money being in public service coffers when it could be elsewhere...
Interesting that last week I heard Russell Prue highlighting Jam as an example of enlightened forward thinking, and this week it's been taken down by what purports to be a creative, innovative industry. Ah well...

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