Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh my god, welcome to the Learning Platform

One of the most important things, I always thought, about a great idea was that it was usually pretty easy to get the concept over to people.... The wheel, Fire, Printing Press, Radio, Automobile, Aeroplanes, the Internet. Make your own list. Easy to understand the concept, simple to see the benefits. Yes?

This crossed my mind 20 minutes into a meeting today about the Learning Platform that the East Riding (and all other authorities) are rolling out across all of their schools over the next few years. Today was an "awareness session". The alarm bells should be ringing at this point. After all, if it's so bloody great, so revolutionary, so beneficial to the educational process shouldn't we all be aware of it already?

The Learning Platform is: _______________________________

And that's the problem. No-one can really nail it. Becta take an entire webpage to sort of, kind of, explain it. It's described using vagaries and double-speak. Lots of positive phrases from a marketing man's spiel. Lots of buzz words but nothing that actually nails down a definition or a concise description.

Worse yet, no-one's really willing to do what you should really do with any wonderful new product - show it to us. I was talking with another ICT bod at the meeting and we worked out that we'd had about 10 hours of meetings, seminars, get-togethers and awareness sessions before anyone actually showed us a Learning Platform in operation.

And do you know what it is? It's a big intranet web-space with social networking integrated. Controlled entry, makes lots of user information from the register system available to staff and authorised users, has a storage area to put resources for lessons, planning, homework etc, instant messaging betweeen pupils and staff. This sort of thing:

I know what you're thinking. That's basically a good website, Facebook, MSN, and a host of other new social networking stuff stuck together in one place and given a new name. Yep. That's what I thought as well.

Except the added kicker is that the Learning Platform is administered by RM from afar but it's the techs and teachers who get to decide what goes on the individual school's Learning Platform. In all of the meetings, seminars and awareness sessions this has been completely skated over in a "that's easy, a couple of hours work at most" kind of way. The only time someone actually gave a good, realistic, reasoned answer to the important question of what's actually involved in setting the thing up happened at an ICT conference in July 08.

It was a presentation from a couple of secondary schools and the feeder primary school. The secondary deputy head told us how he'd been working on his Learning Platform for the last year and he'd got the Staff and the governers onto it. He was expecting to get the pupils on withing year 2 and maybe the parents on in early year 3. THREE years. Bloody hell.

So someone asked the important question, figuring as a Deputy Head he'd probably not have that much time per week to devote to the project and the three year timescale was because of this. "Oh no" says he. "I'm actually on a reduced timetable to do this. I'm spending at least two-thirds of my week exclusively on the Learning Platform".

A hush filled the room.

You could hear all of these ICT co-ordinators working out how truly awful their lives were going to be over this.

Our Learning Platform gets installed October or November 2008.
I'm going to start buying gin in bulk and store it in a custom built 100 gallon tank out in the garden with a pump going straight to my room.


  1. Oh geez, this is a re-packaged "Glow". I was involved in that while I lived in Scotland. The idea is actually simple: "It connects every teacher and learner together in a shared online place" but the execution is bloody awful. RM took a spec drawn up 5 years ago and fulfilled it with basically no future proofing or upgrading (Web 2.0 - what??). Good luck with it!

    Oh, but George Lucas approves it. Further evidence that he is, in fact, a clone and the original is sealed in carbonite somewhere.

  2. See, this is, in many ways the problem.

    "It connects every teacher and learner together in a shared online place"

    Great idea for independent online learning. For older learners. But in Primary School it falls down completely. It would have been nice to see it specially adapted for use in Primary Education but it's just been thrown at us. One size fits all say the government and RM and everyone making a buck off it.

  3. Haha - deja vu! That was one of our criticisms of it, but RM's stock response was (as it always is) "it wasn't in the spec". This really means "rather than interpret the spec in a creative way and find new solutions for these challenges, we'll take £37m of Scottish taxpayers' cash and throw at you some old junk that we had lying around, while using the money to develop new applications that we will, in turn, try to sell back to you."

    But, of course, if anyone tries to criticise then they're obviously just a luddite and have no ideas about 21st C education. Aye. Right.

    Don't mean to rant, but I feel your pain, I really do!