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VLE … not just a distribution tool? December 2, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources, Tools.
Tags: , , , ,

A colleague came to me recently asking if there was a way our VLE might be able to help with an initiative he wanted to undertake within his department and with their Year 8 students. They’d always solicited feedback from students, but this was usually ad hoc and with the intention of informing the course and lesson structures. Their wish was to make the feedback process more structured and more useful to the students, enabling them to monitor and reflect on their progress.

Although we have a learning platform built around a SharePoint implementation, we decided on using the Feedback tool in our Moodle VLE since the resultant data could be viewed, extracted and manipulated a little more easily. Referring back to the feedback they provided would also be slightly easier for the students.

history review questions

Question sheet

We chose a traffic-light system (Red, Amber & Green) to give a three point scale, which they would set against different aspects of their course, what they learned, what skills they developed etc. In addition each section concluded with a free-text response into which they would add action plan points.

Once all the responses are submitted, the teacher can see an overview, allowing topic or skill areas the students felt less confident with to be seen immediately … which of course enables remedial action to be taken where necessary. S/he canhistory feedback results also see the action points the students feel they want to address, again making the choice of an appropriate course of action so much easier and hopefully subsequently more effective.

Each individual student can see a summary of their responses and print it out for future reference if appropriate. More importantly, they will be able to refer back to their responses later in the year when they repeat the process and thereby be able to see whether their action points have had the intended effects.

Here we can see the free-text responses showing the action points students had for one of the sections.

feedback cloud

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/6443365481/

Formulating targets for self-improvement is never easy and as we can see, some of the responses perhaps need teasing out a little more. Part of the process of moving the students forward will be in helping them develop the more reflective aspects of their approach, so their action points become increasingly SMART.

Wouldn’t it be great if all subjects required their students to undertake self-reflection like this, on a regular basis so it simply became a natural part of learning? And how about if that data was fed into a central system so a student could see their progress profile across their subject range? And if their pastoral tutors (mentors) had access to that data too so that students got timely and appropriate guidance on addressing areas needing further development … and got praised for areas in which they’re improving?

OK I know. Small steps.


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by cjsimmons: http://flickr.com/photos/cjsimmons/130008318/

‘snow joke! December 1, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Management, Musings.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
my car under snow

Look like I'm gonna be digging!

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.

PLE, VLE, MLE, FLE, LMS . . . aren’t there enough TLA’s? November 8, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in TELIC.
Tags: , , ,

From Moggs Oceanlane on Flickr

Learning Platform, Personalised Learning Environment, Managed Learning Environment, Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Gateway, Learning Management System. So many terms have evolved for describing the mechanisms or spaces we provide for learning online. Why is this? Do they all mean the roughly the same thing or do they all provide different affordances? When we think of the real learning spaces we associate with schools, we think classroom, gymnasium, science lab, workshop, and we all have a reasonable mental picture of what those spaces are, how they’re used and what we do in them, possibly because as younger people, we’ve all experienced learning in those spaces. But VLE? What mental image does that conjure up . . . if any?

For me there was a chronology to my understanding of these terms which began around 2001(ish!) with VLE. As I understood it, a VLE was a way for teachers to provide access to learning resources for their students and those resources could be marshalled into sequences of activities which provided a learning journey (shudders as thinks about current overuse of term ‘journey’). VLE then developed into Managed Learning Environment and I saw this as an integration with schools’ information management systems which therefore expanded what was possible. Learning Platforms and Gateways bubbled into view next, offering additional functionalities like collaborative features, assessment tools and Web 2.0 technologies. With the current focus on Personalised learning, it’s hardly surprising that the latest incarnation would be the Personal Learning Environment in which the learner is better able to enlist features, tools and learning activities they feel are appropriate to their needs. But they’re just my observations and others will doubtless think differently.

There is a common theme though . . .the word learning occurs in each term. An accident? I hope not. VLE’s felt more like a teacher tool, where information was pushed in the students’ direction in the order chosen by the teacher; perhaps they should have been called Virtual Teaching Environments. In a sense they mirrored what took (and takes) place in many classrooms. Appending the term ‘Managed’ to learning environment did nothing to alter that; indeed the term has even greater connotations of control – was it the organisation doing the managing? Similarly Learning Management Systems. With Learning Platforms and Gateways, we’re hopefully getting closer to the ‘learning,’ though platform implies at least some measure of pre-ordained structure, whereas gateway suggests an access route, maybe a looking glass to wonders beyond! Until finally we arrive at Personalised systems in which some degree of control is given over to the learner. However, as George Siemens observed, ‘PLEs aren’t an entity, structural object or software program in the sense of a learning management system.’ So they might include a VLE as element, but may also include social networking sites, media storage and distribution sites, blogs and RSS feeds. They might also include the local library, newspapers handed out in the street, periodicals delivered to our door, friends we hang out with in the pub and the TV we might slump in front of at the end of a long day. It’s likely then that the truly personalised learning environment has incredibly fuzzy edges which blend together both online and offline worlds. George Siemens would rather have ‘ecology’ than environment. I think I prefer ‘ecosystem’ – it’s more to do with ‘community’ and ‘interactions;’ surely they’re at the very heart of learning? PLE – Personal Learning Ecosystem . . . wonder if it’ll catch on?

Gretchen Frage's PLE

From Gretchen Frage on Flickr

Next post has to be – visualising my personal learning ecosystem.