First things first…. The Department for Education and Skills have made it clear that every child in the UK must have access to a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) by the close of 2008.
With 24,000 schools in England and Wales (and one more brand new school opening every 4 days(ish))….this is a big challenge…….but as Professor Stephen Heppell says …. “It is a nice one”…..
What is a VLE? Why have one? How does it work? What does it cost? What are the alternatives? What is the impact on time and workload? How does it enhance or improve learning delivery? What do we have to do to make it work? What does it do? Why does it do it? How does it fit with curriculum delivery? Is it curriculum delivery? …. the questions go on, and on and on….
Up until now what has largely been missing was clear help in answering the questions and finding ways to make sense of the mass of information available from creators of commercial products, government agencies, ICT professionals and plenty of others. We have never been short of information, but we have never really started to filter it too much either.
The thing is…..general research currently establishes that decision makers need to talk, schools need a lot of guidance on what a VLE actually is and above all, VLE implementations need to be carefully thought out and involve the young people that use the system in the research, design and implementation process.
The underlying message which has been repeated time and time again with VLEs is that one size does not fit all -each school will need to evaluate what they actually want from a virtual learning environment. Every school is different and therefore implementing a practical, flexible and expandable system which allows growth (both push and catch up) with the school.
Our part in this project started in February 2007 with Sue Pickering from YHGfL commissioning Cleveratom (2006-2011) to work with the YHGfL. Cleveratom (2006-2011) brought in the research skills of Kris Popat of Kris Popat Projects who is based in the YHGfL region and was able to carry out the initial research phase of the project. Kris visited the seven schools selected across the Yorkshire and Humber region that have already implemented a VLE to document the learning journeys and learn from those schools the challenges they faced and the lessons learned. Kris fed back to YHGfL and Cleveratom (2006-2011).
Hal MacLean and myself from Cleveratom (2006-2011) then visited the same seven schools researched by Kris to capture on film the key messages and voices of the staff involved. We then turned those messages into a DVD. I sat in a very dark room for a month making the ten DVD films while Hal worked on the sound. Once the text from the research was completed by Kris, Alex then spent time working on developing the online space and book design while Hal constructed the DVD from the video files.
Now we’re with Professor Stephen Heppell in Castleford at a conference attended by 200 school heads and key decision makers from across the region exploring VLEs for the first time. A further 2000 schools across the Yorkshire and Humber region will be sent a copy of the DVD and book. A virtual online community will soon be launched to encourage everyone involved to come together online and discuss what they need to do in order to establish their own learning platform. We are photographing the event and running a podcast stand where delegates can record their thoughts and questions to be presented as short videos in the online space.
Cleveratom (2006-2011)’s core team experience of virtual learning environments, social software and how to get the most from working online over the past ten years have really helped us when working together with the YHGfL. I think it is important reviewing exactly where schools are now, and interesting for us we’re working with schools one to one directly to provide and support evaluations, vision sharing and innovation in learning through technology consultancy. This VLE work has helped us to increase our knowledge and experience in this field.
YHGfL’s ‘Virtually There : Learning Platforms’ project has been an enjoyable experience for all involved. Sue Pickering has been an excellent project partner to work with, the entire YHGfL team have made an excellent team effort in delivering a very well attended and thought out event.
See the pictures Hal took from the event.