The last VLE ever?

hope this is the last time I write about blessed Virtual Learning Environments and Learning Platforms in UK education. I am so sick of them, but not so sick that I hold back from sharing the rant with you dear reader :)

It's been 8 years now, during which time VLEs have been massively promoted by Becta (the UK education quango) there are now loads of them, the best is the free software called Moodle but hardly anyone uses any VLE at all let alone the best one!

No doubt at this week's massive BETT show (British Education Tec.. something) I'll see another tranche of this year's highly resistible offerings.

You think I am being overly negative? Read what Oftsted, HM Inspectorate has to say...culled from the BC news online..

...It highlights that a 2005 government strategy report called on the educational technology agency, Becta, to ensure that a majority of institutions made effective use of technology.

In most places surveyed by Ofsted, the use of such VLEs was "not widespread" and where it was in place it was often the result of the enthusiasm of individual teachers.

"We found that the exploitation of VLEs at curriculum level resembled more of a cottage industry than a national technological revolution," inspectors concluded.

In which case can we just stop now please?

If virtual learning environments are a 'good thing' then in a free society they will be adopted by schools, students and teachers if, and only if THE inviolable 'equation' is met:

'Is the gain worth the pain?'

The 'gain' in this context is of course improved educational outcomes for children. These are of necessity hard to quantify without a large amount of data which we don't have because no one is using them.

The 'pain' is the cost, the teacher training ovehead, the time involved, the content provision and the access overheads.

Clearly as reported by Ofsted, in the teaching profession only nutters (sorry, 'enthusiasts') in cottages think the 'gain is worth the pain'.

Given Oftsted's unequivocal verdict above, pushing VLEs at schools is just giving ICT a bad reputation and building up teacher resistance to all ICT 'innovations' good or bad. VLE's are now in the same unfortunate and much hated category of Interactive Whiteboards (Ed. Ssh! you are not yet allowed to raise dissenting voices against IWBs).

These kinds of product are just Luddite-fodder. Don't be surprised when overselling of technology looks a bit too like the overselling of debt and enjoy the backlash with all its vendor bankruptcy that accompanies it.

Meantime, a small plea, can we jump one way or the other?

BECTA..can you either quietly drop your sponsorship of VLEs or persuade your political masters to force teachers to use them?


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