I'm sat, near what might be the only available power socket in the room, at the back of the hall of the Naace strategic conference. On Monday, while in the office tying up loose email ends and making sure that things were shipshape while I'm not in the county for a few days (somehow, I don't think my absence will affect things that much), I picked up a piece of mail - one of many identical pieces of mail addressed to every member of our ICT team. It was from Birchfield Interactive and was a four page A4 brochure with a bold claim on the front. You can flick through it yourself below:
However, the salient question is is a VLE without bought content a waste of time? The campaign in question implies that a VLE without content is like a car without fuel which must mean something similar.
As previously mentioned I think Birchfield's content is OK - we've got some samples of their content and will open it up in a shared Moodle area for our schools to look at when the main BucksGfL site is updated to Moodle 1.8 so that schools can have a go with something that works in their VLE before purchasing it.
Something that Ewan McIntosh alluded to last night was that it's the users that make a VLE work. You can throw all the content you want at it, but without users it would be like... well, a fully fuelled car without a driver I guess. Is the teacher the driver in this analogy? I think not, but then neither are the learners. Besides, bearing in mind that VLEs and Learning Platforms exist in a world where existing pedagogy doesn't always cater for them, aren't teachers learners as well? Some of the best work we've seen within our Moodles in Buckinghamshire hasn't come from great swathes of pre-produced content but from interactions (particularly in forums) between learners and other learners (with teachers in there as well) - reflecting on their own work - some of which comes from curriculum requirements and some of which doesn't. Much of it reflects on and responds to freely available content available online. Of course, good quality content could stimulate this as well, but on its own, does it make a difference? It's a different world from something like RM's Kaleidos which comes with "ready mapped" curriculum content - so does this make any real difference? At last week's Becta Symposium on Effective Use of Learning Platforms the point was made that effective VLEs aren't content driven - instead it's a whole raft of other things which make them effective. So why is content being marketed to schools like this? Is it because schools are worried that what they do themselves isn't good or compelling enough? Are we about to see a push of content at schools as the end of eLCs nears - while it be useable, or even useful to them? Will it be shrink-wrapped and difficult to use, or in bite sized chunks, a la Ode or the way some people think it should be?