I’d not come across these matrices before. They are designed to help you understand where your school is at on a scale of readiness for various initiatives. I don’t run a school, but I nonetheless found them to be extremely revealing of BECTA’s criteria – more so in fact than their formal documentation.
In addition to Learning Platforms, I also spent an hour or so on the Assessment for Learning Matrix. If anything, this was even more revealing of BECTA’s criteria around online learning.
Ian’s complaint against BECTA is that they don’t take his preferred VLE, Moodle, seriously. They see it, he complains, as “boys playing in garden sheds”. Ouch. Reading the matrices, I can see why that would be:
Level 4: The MIS is incorporated into the learning environment so that all users can access data as needed for formative and summative assessment.
Level 4: The use of a personal smart card provides pupils with access to a range of facilities and builds a personal data profile within the MIS. Parents can access the data related to their child(ren) online at any time. Data for governors and the Local Authority can be generated into reports.
There is plenty more in the same vein. BECTA clearly imagine a single monolithic piece of software that basically runs the school. A sort of SAP for education.
Moodle, an open source project, is about as far from SAP as you can get. It was, after all, built up from classroom teachers’ needs, rather than down from Tony Blair’s vision.
Which brings us neatly to the question of where I stand on the matter. Frankly, I’m disappointed in BECTA. Their vision might work in an authoritarian, centralised school system, but British schools just aren’t like that. Decision-making here is highly devolved. Different teachers, different departments will choose different teaching tools. Any attempt to enforce a single solution across a school, or God help us, an LEA, will be meet with subterfuge if not downright sabotage.
And it’s not necessary. A standard already exists that will allow many niche services (both pedagogical and administrative) to share data successfully. It’s called
SIF, the Schools Interoperability Framework.
SIF is no easy option; it is complex and technically challenging. It is, however, the correct option. It retains the undoubted management benefits of elearning whilst returning to teachers the freedom to choose the teaching resources that suit them best.
So, if your school is deciding on a learning platform/VLE at the moment (it probably is), you have a choice:
- accept whatever is handed down to you and hope you can teach with it
- campaign for insistence on SIF support, because this keeps your future options open as you become more familiar with the new tools and find out for yourself what they can/can’t do in practise.
Disclaimer: just for once I’m not banging by own drum here. Yacapaca isn’t a learning platform/VLE and has no ambition to become one. It’s a formative assessment system, nothing more. We’d love to make it SIF-compliant but frankly it’s not worth the investment until SIF takes off in the UK.