Saturday, March 01, 2008

Becta Symposium on Effective use of Learning Platforms

On Friday I was in Birmingham to take part in an event organised by Becta which was trying to distil the experiences and practices of a wide range of schools in using VLEs/Learning Platforms. There were about 50 or 60 people there, "hand-picked" to try and capture just what needs to take place in a school to ensure that a learning platform gets off the ground in a school - or at least avoids getting strangled at birth.
The biggest shock of the day was walking in to the room where the day's work was being done and seeing a video of schools using learning platforms which included lots of footage from Buckingham Primary School and Chalfonts Community College. It was a very surreal experience to see Greg and Paul on screen with music from a Year 4 pupil at BPS providing the soundtrack for the video. If I get permission, I'll publish it here...

The day was focused on working on tables (I facilitated one - I've clearly never facilitated anything before). I also did a brief presentation after lunch on "Cross school networks and collaboration benefits" (I couldn't bring myself to use PowerPoint so put something together that you can see over at Issuu, but it's not much use without the context, and possibly me presenting it...). There were seven participants on my table, plus Libby from Becta as a "scribe" and myself as a facilitator. Each person had up to ten minutes to do a brief presentation followed by ten minutes of questions and discussion - trying to get to the heart of what worked, what were the processes they went through in their schools and which one was the most important. At the end of the day we agreed which were the two most important from our list of factors - these were then placed on a series of flipcharts around the room and all the delegates placed three colour coded Post-Its next around the processes which we thought were most important. This was all done on the Becta collaborative space and subsequent posts outlined which were perceived as the most important. These were the schools on Table 3 and :

  • Egglescliffe School
  • St Bede's Catholic School
  • Sir Robert HItchem School
  • Charters School
  • Garland Junior Schoool
  • Fens Primary School Hartlepool
  • Stopsley High School

Here are the things we thought most important:

  • Vision from the senior leadership (distributed leadership). Clear lines of command within the school - ie decision making process that everyone sticks to. Putting LP into school development plan and dedicating staff time to LP;
  • CPD and training - including working in school group or as a cluster of schools. Shared experience very important;
  • Shared successes with other teachers and pupils - created demand for LP;
  • Set up virtual staff room - chat facilities etc to grow staff confidence, then did same with governors, then invited parents in to explain - including advice on e-safety etc asked parents to sign EUP and ensured children understood what this meant;
  • Creation of virtual staff room to show benefit of gateway, spread word quickly.

The two in bold then went into the main pot and, along with others, were voted on by all of the delegates. Here are the three which were (overall) perceived as most important.

  1. Senior management involvement
  2. Vision and understanding of what you want from the technology
  3. Effective, appropriate and timely CPD

No surprises there then! I'm pleased to say that we try and emphasise this and model it when we start our schools out with Moodle, but maybe we could actually take some of our own medicine. I am concerned that involvement of senior management in this in the Local Authority is somewhat distant, but I'm pretty sure that we have a vision of what's needed from the technology and we spend most of our time supporting schools with good quality CPD (but then I would say that wouldn't I?).

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