‘snow joke! December 1, 2010Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Management, Musings.
Tags: #uksnow, CPD, learning platform, Moodle, school closure, SharePoint, snow, vle
Having worked at my present school for almost 6 years, this is the first time we’ve been forced to close, in this case due to the weather. Advice was posted on our website encouraging our students and staff to make use of our Learning Platform (Sharepoint) or VLE (Moodle) to provide continuity of learning, especially for students preparing for exams in January. It’s a great step forward that staff unable to get into work can still communicate using their school email, can access their storage area and those which are shared with colleagues and students and now can even work on their reports in the IMS … all from home. Similarly students can do pretty much the same. This is all good.
Our next step however needs us to be in the position where such provision is planned and simply an accepted part of the service we provide. During the severe snow earlier in the year we didn’t close, but not all students and staff could get to work (many travel long distances) and following the #ashcloud problems, it struck me that we perhaps needed to explore how we begin the step forward. I began wondering whether we could undertake a planned, partial closure day where some students and staff stayed home, some came into school, whilst we still delivered a full day’s programme. An absolute raft of tools exist to support us in doing that, so the technology is in place, but there’s a few things we still need to resolve:
- the people issues. Both students and staff are still at the start of their journey in providing/utilising online resources, whether synchronously or asynchronously. A PD opportunity perhaps?
- quality of learning issues. Although a gathering body of research is showing that at it’s best, online learning is no worse that F2F, we’re unlikely at our early stage to be able to provide that level of effectiveness. Then again something has to better than nothing and the greater our experience becomes, the more effective we’re likely to be.
- equity issues. Recent surveys indicate the great majority of our students do enjoy good access to the Internet, but how do we provide for those who don’t?
- technical issues. Although the tools exist, we just don’t know what the effects on our infrastructure would be of potentially 1000 students accessing resources at the same time. (And actually since we share a platform with our 20+ sister schools, the demand could be even higher depending on the vagaries of the weather!)
- ‘political’ issues. It’s my undestanding that as a school we’re legally required to be open a certain number of days each year. Whether a planned closure of the type I’m advocating would constitute a ‘closure’ isn’t clear … there doesn’t really appear to be precedence!
I checked the VLE access logs a short while ago and the first student logged on at 8.03 this morning – that’s before a normal school would start. As I write this at 19.09, there are still five students on there working, long after school would normally have closed. And I haven’t even checked the logs for our learning platform yet! Maybe there’s a message there for us?
So the weather has indeed been no joke and in fact will doubtless continue to confound us for a few more days yet, but ‘every cloud’ (ash or otherwise) as they say – perhaps this will give us the impetus we need to address these important and potentially exciting matters with renewed vigour.