A New Virtual Learning Environment

Today I received the news that my school has been selected as one of 8 in the ACT to pilot the new Virtual Learning Environment being adopted by the ACT DET. It’s called connected Learning communities (cLc) and is published by Uniservity. I know very little about it but from all accounts it’s going to be a big improvement on the existing product we use now.

It’s got me thinking – are these internally managed VLEs a solution that we should be investing time and money into? Part of the pilot program will require me to help staff at the school learn the environment and then integrate it into their practice – this is going to be time consuming and add to an already heavy workload. Would there be more benefit in selecting environments / tools teachers area already familiar with (like facebook, twitter, wordpress, edmodo, flickr etc) and simply deliver our students their educational experiences this way? It would save a heap on PD, and the fact that teachers already know many of the technologies should mean they’ll be able to come up with interesting ways to use them without prompting and hand-holding from other staff.

Of course, the big issues with such an approach are those relating to privacy and security of information. We can’t have our students publishing information about themselves willy-nilly online (even if that information is only used by the provider of the tool for account registration purposes) for legal and social/safety reasons – I understand this. We’re in a situation now where mistakes aren’t allowed – the legal and personal ramifications for such an event are too destructive. If we continue to see technology evolve at the rate it has been, I don’t think the legal system will ever be able to keep up with the changes.

So, instead we provide safe “sandpits” for the kids to work in. I really am looking forward to a bigger sandpit with more toys (and toys that are actually going to work well) – I just hope that we all keep in mind that the world outside of that sandpit is a very different place, and we need to make sure that when the kids leave it they know that their sandcastles aren’t going to be anywhere near as safe on the beach as they were in the sandpit. There was no water, animals or nasty outsiders to knock them down.

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