Saturday, 9 July 2016

Managed Personal Learning Environments: Clearing the decks

It's been a very quiet year on the blogging front for two reasons. Firstly as I've been working on the EdTech unit at Leicester University (which was the reason for starting this particular blog and I'm not going to start another one) I've not had masses of time to blog about specific things of wider relevance, and secondly because the things I was blogging about at Chromestead had frankly gone off the boil. My disappointment at the disaster that was Google Play for Education and somewhat bizarre "Androidisation" of ChromeOS means I don't have much that is constructive to say, so best policy is to shut up.

I think the time is right to blog a little now though. Partly that is because I think I have some things that are interesting to share that combine the reading I did for the EdTech course around online learning, and will be relevant to anyone planning longer term for their school or group of schools. Also though because of the sheer idiocy of some of the things people selling to me have said about the subject and their strategy. It seems bizarre but much of the old snake oil around VLEs and "learning platforms" has come full circle and is emerging wearing new hats (often from the same people) - and a desire to debunk is a great motive to write.

Back in April I wrote a surprisingly (to me) coherent piece about Managed Personal Learning Environments. In a nutshell I argued that the debate between those advocating PLEs as the new wave to sweep away the sclerotic and over-priced Virtual Learning Environments (or LMSs or MLEs or Learning Platforms) is one between two sides who are both wrong, and right at the same time.

VLEs are wrong because they can never meet a broad enough range of needs which are shifting rapidly, within a single platform, because they are out of date before you've even finished rolling them out, meaning you end up defending your investment rather than pushing it forward, because they put you as the educator at the mercy of the development roadmap of people you don't control and frankly because I have never, ever used one that I ever wanted to use a second time. On the plus though they give you a place to securely host your content and decide who can and can't use it and by and large they work as advertised.

PLEs are wrong because although they answer most of the problems with VLEs they don't do what VLE's do well. They don't allow you to control who can do what, and they don't allow you to manage what they can do with your content. If you think those things don't matter you probably aren't responsible for ensuring that the people who your learners are interacting with are the people they say they are, and you probably don't deal with buying and deploying material that you don't own.

I argued in the blog that what is needed is a mPLE - a lightweight management framework that is extensible and can work with as many of those PLE tools as you can make it. Embrace the agility and variety (and power) of those tools, provided you can authenticate who is who and what they can do (and when you can't do those things, draw a line there and stay inside it until the tools to advance become available).

What I want to do in this series of posts is set out my thinking about how we've built and are now extending an mPLE with various partners for our network of 30+ schools and 12,000 users.

The P-Bomb

So you're meeting someone who has a genuinely good online service. They've probably got the lead in a niche and a good number of schools on board and they want to grow. The demo is good, the product is solid and then they drop the P-bomb. "Guy, we see this developing into a platform." Just once I wish I could get up and walk out at that point. But it keeps happening (three times in key meetings to me this year so far).

If I were making and selling an online service to schools my logic would be:
  • OK we have made something that does one thing really well on the web.
  • Schools like it and we have a good brand.
  • We want to make more things and make more money.
  • Let's develop another service, that is not an outgrowth of the first one, but a stand on it's own feet one, maybe add some links between them for those that choose to buy both.
  • Let's sell that as an independent entity so we have two services to sell.
  • Maybe let's give Guy a discount if he buys both.
That way customers build their own platform using your services </rant>

The C-Bomb

OK I can't resist. The Androidisation of ChromeOS.

I want to buy these great lightweight, simple to manage, multi-user devices for our schools so that children can use the best web apps, but also so they could download Android Apps on them said no-one ever. Google please, ChromeOS is great. A tablet version with a rear facing camera that allowed a teacher to video work and screencast it in lessons would have been a killer product, but you gave us the Pixel C instead (because another tablet at a premium price would be great because nobody else is doing anything far better already in that space, said no-one ever). But a model for Chromes where every time a student opens a device and logs in a series of apps are downloaded so they can use an internet based device whilst not on the internet...

There are not many examples of an app I would like to download to use whilst offline that would be useful (offline). The few examples I can imagine (for example an offline text editor) could be baked into ChromeOS in the same way the Files App is.

I like the people I meet at Google and I think they are doing some great work (I also like people at other companies) so I won't write about Google Play for Education.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. All comments are moderated - I will aim to review your comment quickly and make sure it is made available.