Back in June 2009 I posted an article that would be the start of a fascinating journey that myself and the school would embark upon. It was an article about the wonders of the VLE / MLE that all schools were being told to set up.
After an initial meeting about the service our LA was offering us, the HT and myself decided no - no, it was not for us. It was restrictive, counter intuitive, unfriendly for people to get to grips with and - above all - bloody expensive to implement.
Well, we did what was unheard of at the time. We walked away from it, and we decided to create our own. We knew that we could create a solution that would work for our pupils, our staff, and (unlike the official LA solution) be open to the world to promote and share our work.
It took a while to set it up - you can see the my thoughts, actions, successes (and failures) in the category 'Learning Platform Thoughts - and there were a lot of considerations to make along the way as we set it up. But it was worth it. Completely.
Along the way I was faced with a lot of abuse. We were left out in the cold by the LA ICT consultants, I was told I was a fool, even an idiot, I was asked why was I being awkward, and I was described in forums as someone who 'didn't want to embrace the future'. Those comments hurt, but I wasn't stopping because I knew what we were doing was right for the school. I knew it was a solution that would work.
So; onto today and, if you look at our school site, you'll see that the children are using their own learning spaces (their blogs) well, they are interacting with the site through comments to articles (and so are their parents, families, friends and other viewers from around the world), and the work that they produce can be showcased to the world (not just their classmates who have permission to log into a closed area of a hidden platform). Teachers are regularly posting articles to the site, and 'reblogging' examples of pupils own work when it stands out as a good example, and now they are starting to add to other areas of the site too.
Yes, it has taken a while. Yes, it has been hard work, but it has paid off. It works. And surely that is the most important decision to make for any solution that is chosen; 'does it work?' I can say, hand on my dodgy heart, yes. Yes it does.
At the same time, it is interesting to sit in front of the computer and watch tweet after tweet after tweet which make the same declaration time and time again; "We're moving to GApps for our VLE", "Setting up Edmodo as our LP", or "We're leaving the county option for another option". Why is this? What is making others move away from a provided solution and go the route of the idiot, the troublemaker, the one who refuses to embrace the future?
I think it's probably a combination of several things. Firstly, those costly solutions that schools took have not offered value for money, and with the cutbacks that education is facing every single penny counts. Why spend £££'s on something that staff don't, or can't, use when a simpler solution is available for free? For a finance department it's a no brainer!
Secondly, a lot of the work that schools put into their learning spaces is not available for others to view. For some schools this has meant setting up additional websites or blogs to post examples into. Why on earth would you want to duplicate your workload, when you can use a system that enables work to be viewed by a wider audience instantly?
And thirdly - communication, collaboration and interaction. It is so much easier to allow commenting via blogs than it is using a learning platform. Authorising comments can be done on the go through many of the smartphone apps that blog solutions offer, and posting can even be done on the go too - so you can post direct from that field trip that your Year 6's are taking, or the day trip that your Year 1's take to a location attraction.
Almost two years ago, I felt unsure about what we were doing. I *knew* we were doing the right thing, but still had a few doubts in the back of my mind because no-one else was thinking the same. Now, I *know* we were right to take the path we did. I know, because others are doing the same thing too now.