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18 | INSIGHT: VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS | PRIMARY AND SECONDARY


VLEs. Educators have their own individual teaching styles, and changing teaching practices from the top down is difficult. What is needed is the realisation that technology is there to help educators teach more effectively and make their lives easier, and to support students during their learning paths.


Q: Are there any common misconceptions about VLEs? And are schools still sceptical of the benefits? Simon Hay: The term itself implies that technology is an alternative and there is a misconception that VLEs are outdated. Some people think they are difficult to implement and that it is a challenge to get teachers involved. Mathew Small: A common misconception is the association of VLEs with distance learning. While VLEs enables distance learning, thus helping pupils who are unable to atend school, it delivers a greater level of interaction and content during 'live' classroom lessons too. VLEs also open doors to new teaching and learning models such as flipped classrooms – where students access


lecture material ahead of lessons and use the 'live time' to solve problems, discuss and ask questions – and blended learning experiences.


Q: Does the UK lag behind in this area? Simon Hay: The UK were quite early adopters of the VLE with the government implementing VLEs in schools in the early 2000. However, these VLEs weren’t perfect and were not always rolled out in the most effective way which resulted in VLEs geting a negative reputation and meaning that many schools have yet to see the benefits. Mathew Small: While British universities have widely adopted VLEs, schools are still lagging behind in the use of technologies, especially compared with US schools. However, the UK is among the leading countries in Europe in terms of education and there is an increasing interest in VLEs in particular among secondary schools.


Q: Has there been a rapid increase in UK schools using VLEs? Why is this? Liz Sproat: Government investment in technology up to 2010, resulted in


the widespread adoption of a range of technologies in UK classrooms. The BECTA entity served a role in providing guidance and support to schools in their use of VLEs and technology and provided some useful statistics on the use of these technologies in the classroom. Since that point, specific digital policies have had a lower priority – despite that we still see a majority of schools are keen to use digital technologies in the classroom. A key element that has changed is a need for schools to really show the impact technology use can have on learning whilst at the same time delivering beter cost efficiency as a result of budget challenges. For Google, the result is that many


schools are atracted to our free productivity suite, Google Apps for Education and now Classroom, which


“While British universities have widely adopted VLEs, schools are still lagging behind in the use of technologies, especially compared with US schools”


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