Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tarzan and the VLE: Implementing a Learning Platform

Whatever choice a school has made – or had made for it – regarding the VLE/MLE/Learning Platform, the challenge of establishing this new technology within school environments that range from small primaries to large secondaries and independent schools to community schools, remains the same. I’ve worked with 15 Academies so far in this Academic year and it is only fair to say that the most well-developed VLEs have been where school leaders and individual developers are passionate not only about learning but also about their chosen vehicle – very often, but not exclusively - a self-developed option like Moodle or Sharepoint...

All school leaders face the same Learning Platform-related struggle whatever form of dictatorship they lead – see the favourite Mike Herrity post at Sharepoint in Education – how do I get this all-pervading technology to pervade everything…or sometimes more routinely, how do I get this ‘thing’ I bought ‘off the shelf’, down off the shelf from where my organisation’s put it.

Leaders listen to good advice about starting small and letting the good news trickle through the organisation… and then give that responsibility to the comparatively small ICT team thereby often restricting influence and falsely tying the idea of VLE together with ICT technical competence. Leaders listen to the other good advice about technology-adoption and launch across the school too quickly because if this VLE thing is so good we want it now, not in six months’ time – but without the support, understanding and day-to-day proficiency of staff champions it just doesn’t happen. A more ‘slow-burn’ approach identifies the importance of working out WIIFM for people across the organisation, finding what functionality of the Learning Platform is going to break the dam of peoples’ initial reluctance and resistance. This could be a single issue relevant to all members of a school community: like a new building development, or ‘student voice’; or an intervention initiative focusing on National Challenge priorities or Year 11 revision – all opportunities to show the full range of Learning Platform functionality – resource sharing, communication, collaboration, broadcast and learning pathways.

Most school staffs will give a leader 1.5 goes at the launch of a Learning Platform… and if you’ve got it wrong once and not enough is happening, then you’ve got to make it work this time round. BECTA and the Learning Platform companies know this: LP+ have collaborated with Wolverhampton LA to produce the ADOPT Framework, BECTA are in the throes of final drafts of their implementation support framework (due to be published at Easter), other companies have found the need to give additional support to the processes of change management in the schools / LAs where their product has been sold…

Anyway… back to Tarzan… he swings across an open space and leaps to the next vine… so good luck to the ‘Tarzan’ school leaders holding onto the vine as they swing through the VLE jungle, looking for the next strategy to extend VLE use into their school…

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