The Personal Learning Environment. Moving beyond the VLE and SharePoint Learning Platform.

Over the last decade we have seen an enormous growth in use of technology within education. From the use of laptops and digital projectors to smartboards and VLE’s all of which have been aimed at improving learning. As a relatively new teacher I was shown my first ever VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) in early 2004, a moodle system which we began to use at my second school. We often joked that as teachers we sat spellbound by a flash animation as the presenter seemed to promise us that the system would cure all educational problems and perhaps world famine at the same time. Previous blog posts have covered the features of a VLE and if you are unfamiliar with them you can catch up here and see the diagram below.

Since this time I have moved on to a third school and was involved in the original development of the SharePoint Learning Platform which has developed a significant reputation at Twynham School. You will notice the change in terminology and Tony Parkin once commented to me that over a number of years from 2007 the term VLE fell off the ICT Register tag cloud as the term Learning Platform rose to the top. Why did the idea of the VLE lose popularity? The original vision of a system which could assign track and grade assessment has proven largely elusive beyond predominantly simple ‘multiple choice’ and’true/false’ style questions to identify understanding. As a result educators have created a vision for a Learning Platform which contains a VLE but at the same time carries a wider range of other learning attributes which centre around the platform. The diagram showing a SharePoint Learning Platform can be seen below and has more detail about it is in the blog post here.

Amidst all this development and millions of pounds of investment within schools a key question is increasingly being asked. What has the impact been on learning? In the case of Twynham School we have certainly seen a positive impact through the Learning Platform. Students describe the availability of resources in an ‘anytime, anywhere’ environment as a real benefit to learning and especially revision. Our SharePoint 2010 Learning Platform also contains a rich range of features from streaming media and podcasting to rewards systems, performance tracking and integrated learning modules. Our work with the Learning Platform over the last 4 years has undoubtedly added value to our school community and supported learners with resources, input and guidance. Despite this over the last 18 months there has been an increasing view that it is time for us to move beyond this current work and begin a new adaptation of our online learning model with a renewed focus.

Having spent considerable time on this line of thinking a blog post popped up on the radar late last week which helped clarify our thinking. The post from big think reflected on the 2011 K-12 Horizon report and challenged the level of percieved progress we have made with our use of technology and its impact on learning. In the second half of the post it identifies something we know to be true: most of the investment in technology made in education has been in the area of ‘replicative technologies’. These are commonly technology tools which are teacher centric and replace traditional educational practice. The list of replicative technologies in the blog post is worth repeating here as it does bring the context into stark focus:

Replicative Technologies: from 'Big Think'

In the case of our Learning Platform we can certainly see elements of replicative behaviour as paper resources move to the file share and then to the subject gateways of the SharePoint Learning Platform. So is this all doom and gloom? As the post goes on to say the move to replicative technologies is an understandable first step for educators who move educational practice to technology in a way which is most familiar to them. The key challenge for us all at this moment is best summed up at the end of the post. In it the author rightly asserts that, ‘ The question is whether educator adoption of replicative technologies eventually will lead to more transformative, student-centered uses of digital learning tools or whether the current wave of educator tool usage simply will be replaced by whatever is the next generation of replicative technologies’.

Refelcting on these ideas it is clear to see that the best practive we currently identify by those at the cutting edge of technology use within education has one key attribute in common: it is student centric. It is for this reason that we should all ensure our VLE’s, MLE’s Learning Platforms, Learning Gateways and whatever it is we want to call them increasingly become one thing. A personal learning environment where students can add, edit, tag, comment, search, share and review their learning. This is surely the reason behind our use of technology within education: to promote independance and interdependance amongst learners and instant interaction and feedback with students and teachers to ensure we are engaging in meaningful learning.

Using SharePoint 2010 to create a highly developed Learning Gateway for education. Free webinar

Details: Mike Herrity and Dave Coleman will be presenting this webinar live on Wednesday 6th July at 7pm BST/2pm EDT

Sign up: http://www.metavistech.com/webinars/Sharepoint-learning-gateway-for-education

Many of you will have heard bits of the story of Twynham School and our creation of a well-established learning platform using SharePoint. Through various case studies and presentations at conferences around the world over the last 5 years we have been very fortunate to be able to show our work creating compelling custom applications and engaging students and teachers to gain high user adoption. We have had quite a break from presenting and writing up our work for nearly a year and so we thought it might be useful to put a free webinar on to show you some of the new and exciting things we have done with our learning platform, SharePoint 2010.

What’s new with Twynham School SharePoint 2010-11

In this webinar we will take you through our initial work creating a highly developed Learning Gateway from 2007-10. In the second half of the session we will break out into new code the team has written which has not been shown to anyone yet. This includes:

  • ·         A whole new ‘My Site’ development with custom skins which allow the user to create a themed environment.
  • ·         A fully searchable SharePoint Knowledge Base for end users, admins and developers to support them working with SharePoint 2010.
  • ·         A CPD (Continuous Professional Development) system which removes the paper chase from work requests.
  • ·         SharePoint Rewards system which enables teachers to instantly award points to students who can see their scores in real time.

MetaVis have been very kind in supporting us with their webinar system so please do sign up below and we look forward to sharing our new work with you.

Details: Mike Herrity and Dave Coleman will be presenting this webinar live on Wednesday 6th July at 7pm BST/2pm EDT

Sign up: http://www.metavistech.com/webinars/Sharepoint-learning-gateway-for-education

New SharePoint 2010 features for education. SharePoint School Reward System part 5.

Over the last few days we have looked at how different members of the school community view AA (reward point) data which is relevant to their needs within SharePoint 2010. You can catch up on the first 4 parts of this series below:

  1. Part 1 Awarding individual reward points to students you teach.
  2. Part 2 Awarding individual reward points to students you do not teach.
  3. Part 3 The Head of Year View of year group AAs.
  4. Part 4 The Tutor View of tutor group AAs.

In this section we are going to look at how students view their AA totals and the breakdown by subjects. The two elements of the student view can be seen on the right side of the Student home page below.

Student have a personal thermometer for their AAs with the red filling up as students get more AAs- this can be seen in detail below.

In addition to this students can see a breakdown of AAs by subject in the table shown below.

I hope you found this series useful as a way of seeing how other schools are taking their reward systems online. One interesting decision we made within our build was to move away from the obsession with integrating everything into the MIS. Our view was that there will be an increasing move towards data being stored within the learning platform and not relying on a ever more bloated MIS.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this solution if you have been following the series. Drop me an email mike.herrity@twynhamschool.com or on twitter @mikeherrity

New SharePoint 2010 features for education. SharePoint School Reward System part 4.

In the last session we looked at viewing of AAs (reward points) for Heads of Year and Senior Leaders in SharePoint 2010 so that they could see the year group overviews. This can be seen on the right side of the image below. On the left side of the page below you can see an area called Tutor Group Overview.

By selecting the drop down on the left side this brings up individual students with their overall totals. Using this tutors can identify where individual students are under performing with their reward totals and intervene. It can therefore be used as an early warning system of students who are now working at their full potential.

New SharePoint 2010 features for education. SharePoint School Reward System part 3

In the first two session looking at the SharePoint School Reward System built at Twynham School we covered:

  1. The interface which allows teachers give teaching and tutor groups an AA (reward point).
  2. The interface which allows all staff to give an individual an AA (reward point).

Following on from these developments we needed to build interfaces in SharePoint 2010 which enabled teachers and students to see what was happening with the reward points. It quickly became clear that we needed to focus on three interfaces for three audiences: the student total and breakdown by subject for the student; the student totals and tutor group total for tutors; the tutor totals and year group totals for Heads of Year. The interface below can be seen by all staff within our Learning Gateway. Click to enlarge

On the right side of the page you can see the Year Group totals which are used by Senior Leaders and Heads of Year within the school to monitor the progress of year groups. A Head of Year can then click on their year group to display a breakdown of the progress by tutor group.

Tomorrow I will cover the tutor group breakdown which allows tutors to see the total AA scores for individuals students in their tutor group.

New SharePoint 2010 features for education. SharePoint School Reward System part 2

In the first part of this series on Twynham School’s new online reward system I showed the functionality within SharePoint 2010 which enabled teachers to give reward points (or as we call them AAs) to students in their classes and tutor group. When we started trialing this solution back in June 2010 it quickly became clear that we had completely missed something. What if you took a cover lesson and wanted to give someone you do not teach an AA? This was also true of non-teachers and led us to devise a second area of the system. This can be seen below on the right side of the page.

Using the ‘Award an AA to a Single Student’ section staff members can find a student using the address book or instantly place their id into the box. They then click on the next button and the are faced with options on the type and number of AAs.

The drop downs allow staff to select up to 3 AAs and allocate them to an area which they are related to. By clicking ‘next’ the AAs are instantly added to the system. From here we needed to decide how to show the total AAs for students, tutor groups and year groups to different audiences. I will cover this part of the rewards system in the next session.

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