Regardless of who they are or their situation, I salute them!
The head teacher can clearly see that BSF will damage their IT provision and as a knock-on effect damage the education of their children. They have the right way of thinking, and it is good for them to stand up to the bullies that are our government.
If the BSF come to our school, the Head of IT will be fighting rebelling against the managed service.
Collaboration amongst the students and teachers shouldn't mean managed services have to be taken on board, it just means that the LA have to get their finger out and create a platform which will allow the schools to collaborate without taken over the schools IT.
Each school is unique in it's teaching and learning and I feel that only the teams who are in the schools understand the needs of the individuals who require their support be it student or teacher or admin, having a business model rammed down their throats will not empower the end user it will take away any creativity in my opinion.
Yes we will get the usual report of some schools IT not being very effective but this is down to mismanagement from top level in schools by not investing in both the right people for the job and finances.
Most schools I have visited have very good IT in place and these schools are, believe me, going to lose out to the BSF directive in both response times and also financial terms as the cost of each schools SLA rockets every year for the rest of the contract period.
IT is early day's yet and therefore no facts or figures have been collated to allow people to ascertain whether or not BSF actually improves the teaching and learning framework for students and young people. It has been seen across the world and especially in America where this type of model first came to light especially in the big cities whereupon the thoughts where exactly the same, collaboration amongst the teachers and young people in large campus style schools has not had the desired effect so much so that some schools in New York have actually downsized to much smaller schools with between 300 - 500 and seen upwards of a 24% increase in exam grades and also a marked improvement in both attendance and behaviour.
Phew after all this I feel this Headteacher has got a mind of his own and good for him that he thinks so loyally about his students it is a credit to him.
webman (27th June 2008)
Last edited by Grommit; 27th June 2008 at 10:57 PM.
Our LEA has been working on such a system for a while now. They've signed an agreement for Fronter, and are building a MLE using sharepoint and the SIMS.net Learning Gateway. Their eventual goal is/was to create a SSO environment which gets its details from local AD servers which are populated via automatic scripts which extract data from SIMS.net, then these would all be a part of a forest which would then integrate with other counties eventually.
Now, that task is split between the LEA and the new it company the county set up with IBM, 'SouthWest One'.
And SouthWest One has the intention of being part of a bid for the BSF contract for Somerset schools, with the only problem being that the staff they have on hand only have knowledge of first schools and many of their ideas are linked to how they operate - which is completely different to how we operate, and completely different to how the community college up the road works.
Shibboleth, IMS/SCORM, SIF/ZIS ... all standards that are good and admirable but each has a number of issues due to slight differences in implementation in different large scale projects.
Shibboleth differs from Shibboleth 2 and some places have struggled to get backwards compatibility in place ... and whilst an individual school may want to hook into Shibboleth it depends on the in-house skills ... not all schools do.
IMS/SCORM ... packages are created slightly differently by different providers. MS are having to sit down and work with providers to work out what the slight differences are so that SCORM/IMS resources can be put into sharepoint. Other platform providers have had similar issues in the past and so they end up partnering with a content provider ... something to be wary of when you purchase resources that are supposed to be learning platform compliant.
SIF/ZIS ... let's face it, we are seriously tied into how MIS companies work on this. Whilst LAs / RBCs are working on this it is often on an implementation by implementation basis. Whilst the theory is workable there is a lot of recoding that needs to be done to make it work. It also depends on what LAs / RBCs / schools actually want to link together too.
It is pretty simple for schools to come up with methods of hooking all their own internal bits together which is why we see some really good practice on this. MIS sql being interrogated to pull staff / student / class data into the Directory Service and the VLE. The issue comes in writing it back to the MIS DB.
It is hard to scale some of this though, partly due to the complexity with large amounts of accounts (Just ask EMBC schools about the UPN reconciliation tool) and partly de to each and every school thinking they know best (believe me ... some do, but some don't and have made a number balls up as a result ... this is one of the major selling points used within LA /RBC based learning platforms ... whether we agree with it or not.)
A national network is feasible but is a horrendously large project ... however, when you have RBCs working on it and actually succeeding it means that BSF bidders have more ammunition to show that large scale central Directory Services populating and controlling connected systems is feasible, cost effective and efficient. The arguements against need to consider whether this helps or hinders the flexibility that schools need.
You can read about it here
BSF is a politics thing on so many levels ... the people that get the good results get listened to, those who are 'satisfactory' will not be listened to as the leadership at those schools are not in the loop enough to make changes.
That is the way it has been working for the last 30 years in education (the whole of the public sector actually) unless you get significant union involvement (which our unions are doing bugger all) and unions are not listened to much now anyways.
I keep saying to people to get examples about how much difference they make to T&L and that includes achievement / attainment. If you show that your IT expertise has helped in the difference between teh school getting good and outstanding, or satisfactory and good ... then you stand a chance of arguing your case. I've said before that you have to show accountability ... that you have to be part of the strategic vision of the school.
But it may not work even then ... Hackney is one example. There will be more. It varies from LA to LA, from Wave to Wave, from School to School.
Still ... people know my views, know that I am a fence sitter (saves you having to respond, grommit) and know that I am just a tad frustrated that for all the bravado that goes on about "We will change the world", no-one has set up a website that is anti-bsf ... no-one has called the unions to task for not getting involved ... and people expect others to do their running around for them.
Even propietary solutoins incorporate a standards based approach where they choose to, but i think for small-to-midsize companies the advantage is clearly in going for a single vendor in order to realize that all important TCO.
The .NET approach may not have had the effect of dominating the internet if that was the plan, but it's found a place in the SMB sector as IT depts. can follow a familiar programming paradigm and familiar development tools. If your a company like Microsoft who have 360 degree coverage of the back office it allows companies to go all M$ and it's not necessarily a bad thing. All this talk about shibboleth, SSO and federation is all good, but if a school goes down the route of having key Microsoft server apps and a central AD repository the local integration headaches are minimised. Ofcourse that still means you may need to invest in the tasks of integrating bespoke apps and the need for SSO solutions to integrate across the M$ back office, but this approach of vendor standardization to me has considerable benefits for those who don't want to reinvest time and training into learning these standards which aren't well documented or supported.
On a regional level, what's to stop schools from just setting up an ADFS server - in keeping with the M$ product standardization - and requesting outside orgs to peer with the schools ADFS.
Basically M$ have walloped the competition in many key areas, Sharepoint, AD, Exchange, ISA, SQL server have really dominated and gobbled market share from competitors in small and midsized IT environments. Surely it's preferable for M$ shops to pursue this type of standardization becuase of the resources available.... Even in the areas where open source has been really strong, in particular Apache and BIND, M$ is catching up from a technology perspective.
In the future we'll see former market leaders relegated to bit part players as M$ buy and develop their way into a particular market sector in SMB's. BI and repoting is one, CRM is another, sharepoint and instant messaging will be further developed to encompass more features....and with volume licensing the software investment coupled with the in-house skillset makes it a really compelling proposition. I think the impact of this will be clear,
This isn't meant to be a open source vs M$ debate, more a vendor standards vs open standards debate for small organisations who are predominantly microsft skilled. And whether these various SSO and federation projects are unnecessaruly complicating things at the school level. Blinding us with standards, updates standards, acronyms, that in the majority of cases are perhaps not needed in the predominantly M$ world of the SMB? Is it any wonder it's the universities and RBC's doing the leg work for this - they have the resources to work on these complex issues, at a local level simplicity and ease of understanding and working with the core M$ apps is more important.
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