Friday, April 27, 2007

Vale-edictory

What? Oh yes...

Geoff Lambrechts holds court with some primary MoodlersToday was the final one of the current set of Moodle introductory sessions for this group of Aylesbury Vale primary schools. The previous ones were a long time ago (or so it felt) and so I was a bit worried that things wouldn't be too joined up, but we had a room-full of people from about 16 or so schools.
We have a standard "scheme of work" for the Moodle training now, which I'll publish shortly (possibly here) and this was the fourth or fifth group of schools who've been through it. Now that there's a significant group of schools out there with Moodles, one thing we're starting is a series of Moodle clinics or workshops, held after school for anyone to come along to get hints and tips. We'll use a threaded forum discussion to set the agenda for each workshop - simply put, if there are no suggestions, then we won't run the session!
In other Bucks Moodle news, all but a couple of the Moodles were upgraded to v1.6.5+ of Moodle this week (thanks to Richard at Atomwide) and moved onto the HP Linux servers at the same time. In concert with West Sussex we're not upgrading to 1.7 or 1.8 yet, mainly due to the complexity of the roles system. Version 1.8 appears to be a little more rounded than 1.7 so I dare say we might move to that at the end of the summer, but for the moment it's time for the dust to settle and let everyone get on with things...
Oh, and as Richard gradually published a list of upgraded Moodles on our BucksGfL-only Moodle users' support site this week, I counted them... we're now up to about 80 sites with another 20 or so in the pipeline - so even with the new servers finally in it's going to be time to think about new ones soon...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Googletanks on lots of lawns?

In case you hadn't seen:
Google Documents and Spreadsheets will shortly ("this summer") have an online PowerPoint killer presentations application as part of its suite of software. It won't cost you anything other than any privacy implications from a Google account and bandwidth.
Also, Google have just bought some Java-based software from a Swedish company to launch their own video-conferencing system (Google has only bought the software, not the company, so the plethora of reports of Google enters the videoconferencing market may be a little premature). Now, if they did enter the market do we think they'll rewrite it in Flash, Ajax (or whatever's after that) or keep it in Java?
Interestingly, the Official Google blog post refers to "Googlers" as the users of this system - does this mean it's an internal Google-focused system or designed to be used by anyone? The latter would have massive implications for all sorts of things... it would be one thing to give everyone in the world with an internet connection 2GB of email storage, quite another to spec enough servers to allow them all to talk to one another. Are you a Googler? Am I?

E-pedagogy is... and: LDR!

...about to lift off? Maybe...
Last night's twilight session was very well attended, with perhaps around 25 people from a wide range of schools - a couple of special schools and the remainder being an equal mix of primary and secondary. We started late at 4.15ish and finished at about twenty to six or so.

It's really difficult to guage how sessions like this go - being a twilight doesn't help, but I was quite encouraged. Gill's presentation touched on the lack of existing research in the area of e-pedagogy while working with school-age children and gave some examples of previous work done by course members at Camden CLC.
Basically, if we can get 15-20 people signed up for the course then it will be viable to run in Buckinghamshire. People present were interested in applying the course to their existing CPD paths - and to my mind doing something like this is an ideal introduction to thinking about online learning. While most of the schools represented are already using Moodle in some way, not all were - but since (a) working with small groups of pupils / students and (b) only involving a few teachers in a well-defined initial project is the way I'd encourage most schools to start to think about dipping their toes in the waters of online learning, this seems like a relevant and accredited way to get going.
Some people who have already been working in Moodle for a while were concerned that they might be expected to udnertake very basic projects - almost a retrograde step for them. However, the important thing about the course is that it starts from where schools are - whether "basic" or "advanced" - and then proceeds from there. It also encourages schools, staff and pupils to work cross-phase and in cross-curricular ways so I'm hoping we get enough people to make it viable. Above all, it's about teaching and learning rather than ICT and I really hope we get to recognise the work that's already going on in schools.
Elsewhere... one of the outcomes of Merlin John's visit to see Paul at Buckingham Primary School is part of an article in the NCSL online magazine for school leaders LDR entitled Platform for Progress.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What is E-Pedagogy?

A long, long time ago (I really have no idea when) I was at our Teaching and Learning Centre when someone was introduced to me by, I think, Simon Lockwood, our Humanities Adviser. He mentioned that she was from Oxford Brookes and that in some way he was involved in a course thinking about online learning. I gave her my card (when you're given two boxes of them and don't get out much then you tend to give them to anyone, especially if your Mum already has about three...) and vaguely remembered it from time to time.
About a month and a half ago, Gill Potter (Senior lecturer in ICT and Education) to whom I had given my card) gave me a "Remember me?" sort of phone call and we arranged to meet at the Westminster Institute of Education on the south side of Oxford. I had since gained a better idea of what Simon L had been involved in in the course (held in Camden) and it turned out that Gill was leading that course. Simon's course was based on Brookes World, a Fronter-based system and Gill was interested in how this course might transfer into other systems, including our Moodle-based county-wide system. For me this was a chance to start to put some teaching / learning / pedagogical flesh on the infrastructural bones we've been building over the last few years - plus I could think of many of people who would appreciate the chance to formalise what they've been doing somewhat on the hoof in our Moodle experiences.
The main point is that there isn't much experience / evidence / guidance in what a pedagogy which involves E-Learning as a significant component might look like - and so tonight we're having an introductory "taster" session when Gill will outline to people who turn up (of which I'm hoping for more than a handful...) what the opportunities are. Rather than reproducing everything here, you can read her not-long-born blog which contains some interesting articles, including brief quotes from members of previous courses (which had a focus on Gifted and Talented education), examples of the projects they undertook and some useful What's in it for...? posts.
We hope to run the course over this year with a cohort of between 15 and 20 "students", with the potential to involve a few teaching and learning consultants as well, subject to which schools are involved. There's an outline of the course on Gill's blog (in PDF format) if you'd like a better idea of what it involves. There's also an area on the BucksGfL to support the E-Pedagogy qualification, which can contribute a third of a Master's qualification. The area is open to any member of staff with a BucksGfL username and password and there's a Q&A area for people who might not be able to make it to this evening's twilight. If you don't have a BucksGfL username, you can get similar information from Gill's blog.