An Evolving Blog about Learning Technology @ Barking & Dagenham College
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  • Itsy Bitsy Spider …

    Posted on June 6th, 2011 admin No comments

    After two long and boring days of solid bean counting last week, the team decided to explore the potential of Lego Mindstorm for problem solving activities in the classroom:

    Our findings?
    Incomplete Lego sets are absolutely perfect for “How are we going to connect this bit with that bit when we haven’t got the right part?!” type problem solving.

    So, teachers, take out a vital part before letting your students loose on the kit, then sit back and watch their minds work overtime. ;-)

    We had a blast.

  • Moodle Evolution

    Posted on May 20th, 2011 admin No comments

    One of the reasons why things have been a little quiet on this blog recently is because a lot of my time has been taken up with planning and thinking about the next step in the big BDC Moodle evolution.

    moodle Evolutions

    Since Moodle was first unleashed here in 2004 it has sprouted instances left right and centre: test sites, project sites, ever changing curriculum sites, sites that serve as overspill to other sites, sites that …  well, who knows at this point what all those Moodles are even there for?

    Inefficient
    eLearning have made do without a technical VLE Administrator since 2009, and it has been hard to keep the growing Moodle heap in check: the  sheer volume of stuff on our VLE server that is being backed up needlessly every night is now quite a considerable overhead, and with another member of staff recently lost, we simply cannot afford to carry on with such inefficient ways of working.

    Having to roll out the same security patch, the same theme modification, the same bit of php code umpteen times across all these different Moodle sites takes a lot of time, concentration and effort: paste the wrong file or line of code in the wrong place and things can go very wrong indeed. Consider also the huge amount of duplication that is created whenever a generic piece of content needs to be available to all curriculum areas. Copy. Paste. Copy. Paste. Copy. Paste. Ad infinitum. Small wonder really so many of our VLE Admins over the years (nearly) lost the will to live.

    Cha-cha-cha Changes
    Staffing issues and maintenance overheads aside, the slim-down we are planning for the summer also serves as a vital step towards preparing for the big Moodle 2 version upgrade some time in 2012/2013. We need to do some major pruning in order to keep BDC’s online provision ticking over smoothly in the future, and so this August we will finally be moving all our curriculum sites to ONE single Moodle instance. It will be a huge task for us, and our entire eLearning team will be working flat out over the summer to make the transition happen.

    This transition to one Moodle is also an ideal time to change working practices. We need to be moving away from filing cabinet style courses and towards the kind of course that provides content that better supports learners. The message is simple: if learners get a chance to discuss topics in class or they participate in activities that test their knowledge and skills, then there needs to be an equivalent space on their Moodle course to reflect this. Simply posting static handouts and slideshows without any guidance is just not enough to support learners adequately in this age of collaborative and independent digital learning.

    Towards Quality
    To encourage practitioners to create accessible and good quality blended learning, the eLearning team will be prioritising their migration work. Courses that are already making the best use of Moodle, i.e. those that have been assessed as Gold, Silver or Bronze standard, will be moved across to the new platform first. This is in recognition of the time and effort that has been invested in these courses.

    At the same time we do not want any staff to fall even further behind in their online provision, and so our summer efforts will include regular training sessions and one-to-one consultations with those whose courses are currently sitting below Bronze standard. We will provide staff with plenty of assistance and help in migrating improved versions of 2010/2011 courses to the new platform. What we will not do is simply move the same bad practice forward without being given the opportunity to talk to staff about good course design. This is a chance for everyone to make existing learning materials more accessible, faster loading and more platform independent, too.

    The Future?
    Platform flexibility is quite an important point because access to computers is still often cited as a barrier to take up. Bad news, folks: access to PCs will continue to be a big problem.

    In an era where a large portion of people have web access on alternative devices we simply cannot continue to churn out courses that require learners to sit in front of full fat PCs in order to access simple handouts. We need to strive instead to enable access for as many of our learners as possible by making lesson content viewable on devices such as mobile phones, netbooks, tablets and, yes, even games consoles.

    Think about that last point for a minute. How many of your learners are gamers? Do they even think of their console as a learning device? And consider this: how many of our staff might be gamers, too? I mention this because I was recently talking to one of our lecturers and she told me proudly that the other weekend she was doing stuff on Moodle on her PlayStation at home. This remark came so unexpected, I was actually speechless. I love it when that happens. And, quite frankly, it doesn’t happen often enough.

    As per usual, BDC staff, if you are reading this via eCampus Teach, the Intranet or any other internal channel, please come and talk to the team in A103 about your course(s). We are here to help.

    If you are reading this elsewhere and would like to know more about what’s happening here at BDC with regards to Moodle or any other EdTech, please feel free to get in touch. We love to hear from you wherever you are in the world.

     

     

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    NOTE
    “stuff” is a technical term that describes a large amount of uploaded course files that are years out of date, badly labeled and no one quite knows what they are and why they are still there

     

  • Let Us Feed You

    Posted on June 4th, 2009 admin No comments

    If you work for Barking College, but don’t usually have a reason to log into eCampus Teach, you may not know what goes on here in eLearning. We can’t have that, of course, and so I have twisted Jamie Phillips’ arm to get the RSS feed of news headlines from this blog onto the Staff Intranet:

    New Kid in Town

    Now there is no excuse not keep up with all things eLearning in and around this college. Big thanks to Jamie & the MIS team for making this happen!