Friday, October 05, 2007

Learning Platforms - are Ofsted bovvered?

A couple of weeks ago there was a (relatively) interesting discussion on the Naacetalk Advisory list about what it would take to get most schools to think seriously about Learning Platforms. A few people wondered aloud if schools might be more motivated if Ofsted included effective (or I'd imagine at least appropriate) use of a VLE/Learning Platform in their inspection framework. After all, a fair amount of money is being invested in this area and, depending on your point of view, LPs could be a fundamental part of the school-focused side of the E-Strategy.
This became more relevant today when I had a conversation with a member of the Senior Leadership Team of a secondary school which has been using a VLE for over eighteen months, and has been mentioned in previous posts around here. The school was inspected by Ofsted this week and the staff member in question spent some time preparing lots of evidence from across the VLE - reflections by students, examples of work, comments from parents, etc.
So, was the Ofsted inspector interested in this?
What do you think?
Apparently, the interest went as far as "give me a paragraph which summarises its impact on achievement". C'est ca.
When I worked in Hertfordshire some colleagues used to half joke that inspected schools would sometimes prepare a CD of evidence and information to give to their Ofsed inspector, safe in the knowledge that the inspector wouldn't know what to do with it. We're encouraging schools to look at their VLEs and think how they might give access to an inspector (including - off the top of my head - creating a generic Inspector username for each school which they could share with the inspector and give them non-editing & hidden access to representative courses) through the VLE. However, do you think that the inspector would use it? How many inspectors would know how to assess effective online teaching and learning anyway?
For what it's worth, the paragraph which was given to the inspector talked about significant rises in predicted A*-C grades in the GCSE courses where the VLE was effectively used to support classroom teaching, and similar effects at A-level. I'm hoping to get some more data from the school as the year progresses - and don't think that it's all down to the VLE, it's clearly not, but there is a marked difference there, and I'll be interested to see the figures...

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