Tapped-In is probably the longest running, still active, virtual world for educators (If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments!), but it has announced that it will be closing on Friday 15th of March. So now is your last chance to see this world before it disappears… (unless, of course, a mysterious benefactor steps in with money to keep it running)
Paperwork up to the eyeballs, and a to-do list somewhat longer than my arm, mean that writing my own defence of VLEs is still on the backburner. So here’s a link to recent posts on this topic – with particular relevance for the Scottish schools (5-16) sector…
John Connell answers “Why not just use Skype?“. There are benefits of single-sign on and collaboration with other authenticated users within a large scale environment. Again, this does not mean that other systems cannot be used, but a common system shared by all schools brings benefits that might not be realised by large numbers of teachers each using their own preferred subsets of Web 2.0 technologies. As one of the comments notes:
Glow isn’t going to offer a huge amount that’s not available to those teachers who are already using Web2.0 tools with pupils, but such teachers are a tiny minority now, and even their use of the tools in the learning and teaching process is often sporadic.
Web 2.0 technologies allow schools, classes, teachers and pupils to communicate and collaborate online. Glow gives Scottish schools, classes, teachers and pupils a place to do this – hopefully making it easier not just to conduct these activities but easier to make the connections required before such things can happen at all. There is also an extra hurdle in introducing new technologies if each one requires a new log in, and has the appearance of a new service, new brand and new UI. By collecting a range of features inside one environment, Glow has the ability to introduce new ways of working gradually and without teachers thinking they are using a new product each time they use a previously untouched feature.
Additional debate on edu.blogs.com .
Yet to address myself to the defense of the VLE I hope to do… but today Google relaunched JotSpot as Google Sites – and it is now in effect a Google web content-management system (CMS) for building your own branded corporate or group intranet and internet sites. It includes many of the typical features of a virtual learning environment too… so does this mean that a VLE can be a Web 2.0 application? Does this mean we can calm down a little on Web 2.0 vs. VLE debate – or will it be another application people will cite as signaling the end of the university VLE?
Note on terms: CMS can also mean ‘Course Management System’ which is the same thing really as a LMS (Learning Management System) or VLE (Virtual Learning Environment).
Edit: I should also give credit to TidalBlog which alerted me to the re-launch a few hours before I got the email from Google.
Today there was a flurry of emails on the ALT mailing list about VLE’s (Virtual Learning Environments, or LMS or CMS as they are more commonly known Stateside). A number of posters were quite ‘anti’ VLE – looking forward to replacing institutional VLEs with an assortment of Web 2.0 technologies which students pick and choose for their own ‘Personal Learning Environment’ or PLE. (OK that may be a simplification!). These were followed by a few posts which managed to provide a good brief defense of VLE’s, and noting that it is possible to use both.
I sadly don’t have time to comment on this just now – briefly, as with the later posters, I quite strongly believe that VLEs do add value, but just because an institution uses one doesn’t mean that students can’t use other tools as well – but here are some useful links. First a few on PLEs, to try to come to terms with what it’s all about: