Sunday, February 20, 2011

A standard VLE for Ireland?

We are at an interesting point in Irish education, where many secondary schools are moving their school systems towards VLE’s or content management systems.
Why do I use both terms, when these are clearly very different pieces of computer kit?
It’s how they are used. I’m listening to discussions in various teaching fora on the web, looking on as a parent, and for my sins trying to teach. And through all these channels I see many very different views of what computers have to do in the classroom.
At one end we have the apple tribe, with students making Imovies, engaging with apps and hitting each other over the head with ipads when they’re not texting on their iphones.
Its creative, anarchic and probably reflects a true vision of the future with these students lounging around as adults listening to their ipods and sending updates to their e-friends on facebook 2.3.
At the other end I see SCORM compliant transpositions of our traditional teaching modes “Listen to it, learn it, pass the exam and forget it”, where the computer turns into a vertically mounted examination paper with a slightly stricter method of enforcing the “Times up! Stop writing now" imperative moment.

The problem with making a national VLE recommendation as I see it is this.
We need a VLE where a class can have a discussion, where they can write a newspaper. Where they can collaborate on a movie. Where they can write a class blog, sit an exam or play serious games. We need somewhere where teachers can do everything from just putting up the homework for the class, to running a virtual classroom for housebound students whom they have never met in person.

Many teachers will be in the just put up the homework camp.  They have been teaching their course for many years, are good at it and it works. These are the easy people to satisfy.  The problem is with the rest. Moodler’s and Sakai’s BB’rs Frogs and angels. Together with the vast array of teachers who have found tools like Voki and Voice thread, Youtube an Vimeo. Trailmeme or eTwinning. 
For these there may be only one real VLE, and its called the world wide web.

This piece was written after reading a truly excellent post on the history of the VLE which is linked from this blog page by Ray Tolley:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From the Irish Times:Free online course materials will revolutionise third-level education

This is a reaction to the above article by Brian Mooney writing in the Irish times today, the First of February 2011. In the article he extolled the virtues of MIT opencourseware.
MIT is great, and I love the open course ware initiative, but its only one small shelf in a very big open-source learning bookstore! Have you looked at whats available through ItunesU? This has all of the MIT stuff + Berkley +Harvard, +....hundreds of universities, and Museums and other such.  Its a great resource for the learner.
Here is another source of such materials, this came up on the CESI list in response to the Irish times article: 
The second interesting trend is the emergence of degree replacements such as "Microsoft Certified", where it doesn't matter where you get the learning, once you sit the exams and pass, you get the piece of paper.  In this way we see the learning and the certification being de-coupled with the later being given the imprimatur of an internationally accepted (albeit commercial) standard.
City and Guilds in London used to do something like this, and The university of London also had a very early distance education program with a good reputation.  This is a field where we will see more players entering in the near future.