Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Naace conference ministerial address

I'm sat (on the floor, near what might be the only available power socket) at the back of the hall of the Naace strategic conference. Gareth Davis is just introducing the sessions and John Naughton of the Observer and elsewhere will speak after Jim Knight speaks via videoconference (he's also doing it in Second Life apparently, which will appear on the screen, hosted by Leon Cych of Learn4Life).

Here he is, and (mostly) the technology works. He (or his avatar) talks about the aim for 2010 for every parent to be able to login to a "school intranet" (his words) and see how their pupils are doing. This is based around a demonstration from Shirelands Language College, one of the ICT Test Bed schools and a bleeding edge example - but that's hardly an "average" school, is it? It's like saying "this method of investing in infrastructure and crowd control worked at Old Trafford, therefore it'll worth at your local football club.
Jim K visits the Learn4Life island and then the IBM University.
There's then a Q&A session, and I get to ask a question which is translated through Gareth asking a text question in SL. The question's essentially where does the government see the burden of allowing parents individual logins falling - on schools or local authorities? Has anyone really thought about the complexities of giving every family / parent a username and everything that might ensue from that? Obviously it's a question which needs listening to rather than reading and it doesn't get typed in OK, but never mind!
There is (in government) an assumption that it's very easy to simply give out "a username to parents" and that schools will easily give access to their MIS / VLE / Learning Platform / whatever - without much apparent thought about the logistics behind it. In the main it's wishful thinking, a hangover from the time where a previous Secretary of State insisted that parents were at the centre of everything, but unfortunately to my mind it doesn't operate in the real world of schools. When the thoughts in my head about this stop buzzing around and settle, I'll post about this another time.
Kudos to Jim Knight for even attempting something like this (and to Leon who may well have held his virtual hand, if you see what I mean) - althought it wasn't a real conversation which we might have had had he been physically present. I don't think most people learned anything they didn't already know, and for some reason I'm reminded of a few years ago, when Charles Clarke addressed the conference by a traditional video conference link and was candid, direct and accessible. Jim Knight seems like a good bloke (what do I know?) but maybe this was a mixed opportunity and everyone involved was distracted by the technology.

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