I guess as with many of us I have been flooded recently with a plethora of flyers and adverts from people offering to set up Learning Platforms and School Websites, indeed one company recently contacted me to tell me about the fantastic website they had built for a local school, and it was, but I have to admit to being more than a little upset that they had done so without even looking at the one we already had, one which I had spent many hours lovingly tending to. It would have been nice for them to say, how they could offer their services in managing and maintaining our site, rather than assuming we did not have one or offering the editable template structure approach.
As a school we have had a website since 1998, and in that time it has not lead a static existence, but has gone through several incarnations, from my early experiments with visual development tools, through a class based project with my students that was later adapted to become an LA scheme of work unit, having stopped off on its way to form the basis of a local school's network project. Our site's current incarnation began in June last year when I began to reorganise and restructure it with an eye to supporting school based and extended learning within the wider local and educational communities. I recently discovered an article about Learning Platforms which expressed sentiments, I feel that any school website designed for learning should share. Unfortunately since then I have lost this article, but the description was inspirational. Learning platforms were likened to "Railway Stations," places where learners came with a view to travelling to "new destinations," embarking from here to widen their learning horizons. As a community school, with a long commitment to extending and supporting the learning not only of our students, but all stakeholders, this metaphor and vision of a learning platform shares much with my own views on the role school websites.
A website is little more than a navigable filing system, and can be much more than a shop window. It too can act as a portal, somewhere that not only potential clients, but existing stakeholders want to visit, to celebrate and share all that is good about us as a learning community, and a place to share tools and resources that we, our students and wider community can draw on to engage in and extend our learning opportunities.
This weekend I have uploaded the latest version of our website, it has a new look, but still contains all of the previously developed content, reorganised and filed as it had become a little tatty (behind the scenes). It builds on the work that has gone before by including links to new content too, some of which exist outside of the site, with the Teyfant Site acting as a portal, platform or starting point where all of this is pulled together. Some of the new content represents trials and experiments currently going on in school, with emerging technologies. I am pleased to include this time some experimental class blogs, which will grow out of class community pages and community ICT projects and which hopefully will enable delegation of some of the sites maintenance and upkeep tasks. Can't wait to see how these develop. I was intent at the beginning of the year that any learning platform we did adopt should meet our needs and not be bought into solely to meet someone else's agenda. After Easter we will be participating in a pilot scheme, for a commercial VLE, but I would like this to become part of our school's wider web strategy, and meet with our learning agenda. Using the school web site to frame our thoughts about what a learning platform is, and the potential affordances they bring to a school such as ours has already been a beneficial process, but will help us further when we consider what we truly want from the VLE. I feel that our school website has the potential to form the basis of our "learning platform," and that tools such as a VLE, should plug into this, in order to expand it's functionality. Lets just see how things pan out.. What do others think?