My open apology to Bradford Schools

Yet another learning platform vendor
Image by Mr Ush via Flickr

A few years ago I got caught up in something shameful, something that damaged education, something that I have to apologize for and get if off my chest.

While employed at Primary Technology I was invited in to schools to talk about VLEs and learning platforms. During these consultancy sessions I gave the impression that Learning Platforms were a legal requirement and that by having a learning platform or learning environment they would get reviewed by OFSTED. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case. I was under the impression from a certain company that this was the truth, I should of done my homework and for that I am sorry!

A lot of bad actually came from schools adopting learning platforms, mostly the mentality that one web tool provided a complete working solution for their schools web based needs. The way I see it is that a Learning platform is the fast food of the internet. It’s missing nutrients, condensed, gives you what a company thinks you need and needs to include a toy engage the kids. The advantage of fast food is that you often know what you are going to get so it’s predictable, easy, obvious… Applying a factory model to education is exactly what Sir Ken Robinson would not want.

The notion that one web based tool was challenged early on and the notion of the “VLE is dead” came about. VLE’s and Learning platforms providers are finding their place, mostly as an overpriced file repository but hey ho, at least they have come to the understanding they can’t provide everything a school needs.

Image by Mr Ush via Flickr

Thankfully Bradford schools realized quickly that the fast food approach wasn’t working and so did the authority so a large number of schools adopted a fresh food approach to providing web based tools into schools, not providing a prescriptive recipe but a wide range of tools and options. I would say that CLC’s were responsible for this fresh thinking approach, I wonder who will take this roll in the future with the demise of CLCs..

This skill based fragmentation means we have farmers of web based products cultivating skills in different schools with different groups of kids and therefor in Bradford we have a wide range of skills on lots of different tools and platforms. We by no means have a solution that works for every school but we have an understanding that by trying to turn any web based tool into a “solution” is damaging for the kids diet.

We have some schools we work with that have been really frustrated with their (local) Learning platform provider that have charged them a fortune but not delivered on the promises made.   My plea is if you work for a learning platform provider please stop selling your platform as the only solution the school needs and provide it as a tool that complements a vast number of fantastic free web services available on the internet.

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Scrobbling Learning

Scrobbling is a process uses to figure out the type of music you like.  It is about 90% accurate and over time builds a more and more accurate profile about what you “might like”.  A while back we have entered into an Internet age of recommendations.  Amazon adopted it a long time ago, it is about 20% accurate for me.

Recommendation engines do work but they must rely on users not only “doing” tasks but feeding back if they felt it was a positive/negative experience and if the recommendation engine should of recommended the item or not.  For example even though is 90% accurate for me sometimes I block a song but get the rest of the songs from that artist.

A project called ROLE intends to profile a learner based and recommend content based on their learning profile.

Currently the project is in an abstraction and development phase.  I appreciate the concept.  I think it is possible, doable and feasible and should have a number of practical purposes.

ROLE has many more challenges to face, such as what type of content is being delivered and is the learner more focused on a type of content IE biology or a type of learning style or will it approach it with a 3d angle of trying to profile the style of learner and the content desired?

The largest challenge ROLE faces it the natural opposition from educators feeling like their workload is being converted into a factory style process. I hope ROLE get a decent video up on YouTube explaining the challenges they face and how they intend to address them. It appears for an open project they are having lots of problems communicating to the wider public exactly what they are trying to achieve and why developers should get involved.  I hear some recent employees have been brought in to address this and I think that is a huge + and I’m looking forward to seeing what they achieve!

Second Life or Virtual 3d Worlds in Primary Schools

Naace are running a conference on using 3d virtual worlds in education. I can’t help but feeling this is mostly focused on the secondary market but I guess it has some relevance to Primary.

Right now, even though I feel it has relevance I feel skeptical that this is a good idea but I could be wrong, it’s happened before 😛

Try to remember most primary school kids don’t even have email addresses provided by their schools yet and we’re going to open them up to a second life (be it walled or not)

I’m not going to rant about security or child safety. I want to focus entirely on the point. Right now, I just don’t get it.

I’m not going to download it or try it out, I don’t want to know if it feels good or clever. This isn’t a particularly new concept. Games have been used in Primary Education for years, mostly cartoony games that are very simple. Why do I need my character to walk to a piece of work to pick it up when its available on my VLE.. (I’m pretending I’m a kid…)

I do however think games is a great way to encourage kids to learn, Primary Games Arena is having huge success worldwide with engaging children in fun learning.

Virtual worlds should be all about engaging with other people, school mates for example.

Maybe the whole Digital Citizenship is what I don’t get. Being that I started with BBS, moved to IRC + LPMUD, now I have every possible way of being “Hailed” 24/7… Come to think of it I think I probably learned a lot of social skills through LPMuds (Multi user environments)..

I think I will go spend some time thinking about what Digital Citizenship is and how it will feel in 3/5 years time when virtual worlds MAY be at their peak. They certainly haven’t peaked yet and all the hype from Second Life is blatant hot air..

I may have just begun a revolution in my head.. Oh dear..

If you read this all the way through then you may wish to consider reading this article of Terry freedmans interview of Miller – its focused more at secondary but you get the picture..

Adding google search to your VLE or Learning platform

This is a question I keep getting asked so I wanted to answer it.

“How do I put a google search onto my VLE or website or Blog”

Firstly, it is wrong that the google search on your VLE or Learning platform should show adds.

Secondly, if it does then whoever put it on is probably making money off it (we see this a lot and its a disgusting trend to make $ out of childrens searches in the bid they click on adds)

So yeah of course its doable for free and easily. What you want (assuming your a school) is a safe search without adds and focused on education.

Right, anyways.. The best solution is Primary School Safe Search

Read this guide and which will give you what you need to add some code to make this happen, but don’t worry its just copy and paste..