Many parents and students will remember that during the snow-induced disruption to school earlier this year we started to make intensive use of the Moodle system, which enables students to access work from anywhere where they can get the internet, and submit it to teachers easily. Having become more conscious of the advantages of this kind of approach, we are now planning to upgrade the range of work we do using ‘virtual learning environment’ or VLE.
We are looking at a number of systems to see their potential to provide the kind of solutions we are looking for. Some systems, for example, integrate fully with the school’s existing information systems, so they ‘know’ which teacher teaches which classes, and who is in each of those classes. Students and teachers have personal log-in pages, and work can easily be set either as class or homework by teachers through their log-in pages, and students have a kind of virtual homework diary with tasks outstanding accessible via their page. These tasks may include not only text documents, but also sound and video clips, access to particular web resources, and so on. Students can submit work from their page, and marks and feedback are passed directly back to students, as well as stored in a ‘virtual mark book’. Finally, some systems have ‘parent portals’ which enable parents to log in and monitor on-line the work, mark and feedback of their children.
This is undoubtedly a foretaste of the way in which learning will develop in the years ahead, and we think it is important for Bennett to continue to develop with and shape ICT-assisted learning. It will not happen all at once, of course, and we will need to plan progress over the two or so years ahead. There are certainly many advantages to this kind of approach, but of course we also need to remember that nothing replaces the personal contact between a teacher and students in the classroom, and good teaching and a strong school ethos underpinned by values will still be what Bennett strives to achieve.
A further issue is of course making ‘virtual learning’ accessible to those children who do not have ready internet and computer access at home, which we will also need to find ways of addressing. Nonetheless, we do expect to start moving soon towards these new approaches, which we do believe have the power to make learning more flexible, accessible, easier to track and record, and more open to parental involvement.