Is PLANE Stalling Mid Flight?

Posted: September 24, 2013 in Education, Masters of Education
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My reason for writing this is to highlight how PLANE, the online Professional Learning Program for teachers, has been affected as a viable Online Learning Community (OLC) and to draw attention to those who might be unaware of this.

PLANE's landing page

PLANE’s landing page

For the uninitiated, PLANE stands for Pathways for Learning, Anywhere anytime – A Network for Educators. It offers a series of resources and professional learning in ICT for teachers. Learning comes in the form of short skill snacks that take a matter of minutes, to lengthier and more involved quests and courses. There are forum boards, a twitter feed, an activity stream, a virtual world based on Second Life to name but a small number of interactive content. Overarching all of this is the user’s Passport, which sees you accrue points as you journey about the site and take part in a range of activities. Simply, it is an engaging form of stamp or badge collecting. Here is a shot of my Dashboard from late August 2013:

I first came to PLANE earlier this year, during my first trimester of a Masters of Education, specialising in eLearning. A colleague had made a passing mention that I should check it out, and having signed up, I spent about an hour having a click around at this enticing site. This was in March and, having made a comment about it on a Forum panel to my university cohort, my subject lecturer mentioned in a Reply post that it was worth a look, but perhaps after the looming assignment had been completed.

As a result, I did not get back to have a look at PLANE until several months later, in July. It seems that, during this time, substantial changes were taking place that would see this OLC in a very different realm. The first thing I noticed was that the Twitter login seemed broken, so having sent an email from within itself (having managed to connect ‘again’ via Facebook), I heard nothing back from Admin. Later I managed to locate a comment to this effect – and that the Twitter Login would soon be fixed; as yet it hasn’t.

Having logged on, one arrives at the News Page. Here the warning bells start to ring. Firstly there is the current statement, that has been up for many weeks now:

PLANE will cease to validate professional learning or issue certificates for completion of PLANE courses after Friday 27 September 2013. Any registered PLANE professional development completed before 27 September will remain on a teacher’s Institute of Teachers record for the purposes of maintaining accreditation. PLANE will continue to offer the current range of professional learning experiences. Teachers will be able to use this professional learning as Teacher Identified Professional Development only, which is logged by the teacher on the NSW Institute of Teachers website and validated by the school principal or their delegate. Teachers can export evidence pages from PLANE as a standalone HTML website to show their school principal or delegate to have the learning validated on the NSW Institute of Teachers website. For more information regarding Teacher Identified Professional Development, please go to http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/.

Adding to this concern, the Twitter Feed (#planePL) seems stagnant, with no content from PLANE itself since late June and the Educator spotlight has remained the same during this time (this might be intended). By a sad contrast, the Activity Stream that occupies the right of the screen is scrolling continuously. A quick glance indicates that, for the most part, those “scoring” the achievements are probably new to the site, based on the types of activities that they are being credited with.

Going further and exploring the site in detail only appears to confirm one’s concerns. The events calendar has nothing coming up (the last event was June), the Virtual World is empty when I’ve visited, apart from the three virtual characters at Boot Camp (again, with no events scheduled), the Ask an Expert is similarly stalled in June. Other areas such as the Groups (which boasts a striking 162 groups) reflects stagnation through the lack of activity in Forum posts and outdated page information. One area which seems to buck the trend is the Share Club, where participants have managed to keep the content up-to-date.

In trying to study PLANE for my university assignment as an Online Learning Community, I attempted to do some research as to its status. My Google skills might not be the best, but even I found it difficult to find much in terms of what was going on. What I did manage to locate, in a Forum post inside of the site, was a Google Doc that raised worries about the future of the PLANE website and ongoing viability. Additionally, it highlights particular concern about the loss of accreditation for new scheme teachers, which PLANE offered. There were a number of other concerns raised in a detailed and thoughtfully constructed letter.

The pertinent parts to the response is printed below.

As part of my Masters coursework, participants are asked to take part in Forum Discussions. One exercise asked students to explore the for/against of the statement If you build it, they will come. In writing this post, this seems apt. Perhaps more pertinently is that “they” might well come, but will they stay, or even come back? Are they expected to take on the maintenance of the site thereafter?

It would be nice to know if this last observation is the case. Perhaps this might go some way to helping maintain and foster PLANE’s base. I understand that many of the “pilots” who helped administer the site have gone and that it resembles more of an empty shell today. A lot of money has been put into this and it would be unconscionable to see this drift,  rudderless, towards oblivion.

In closing, take a look at this photo. It is from PLANE’s Facebook page (also with last post in June). For me it captures everything PLANE can and should stand for – the energy of a range of dedicated practitioners who have come together to create a fantastic OLC. Please feel free to forward and disseminate this post in your own social and educative circles. Perhaps it can be steered to a more appropriate course for all users.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.15.26 PM

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Comments
  1. debhogg says:

    Hi Clive,
    It is depressing to read this analysis… so much potential not realised! PLANE was such a visionary concept – ground breaking in its attempt to provide a common ground for all educators and break down the walls of the different systems we have in school education in NSW. The passion and expertise provided by the “Pilots” was extraordinary and it was deeply saddening to witness the inferred disrespect when the team was disbanded and individuals sent back to substantive positions with little regard for their achievements.
    The rest of the story about PLANE is the huge amount of goodwill contributed by those who volunteered to participate in what was originally called the HAICTE project. To consider yourself a Highly Accomplished ICT Educator, and apply for that label, brought together a huge range of dedicated educators – all of whom sacrificed considerable amounts of their own precious time, unpaid, to participate in supporting PLANE. Again… very little recognition for their participation and effort.
    The promise of free professional development, registered with the Institute of Teachers was a Mecca for all new scheme teachers. Just another broken promise.
    The hope that PLANE will continue to fly is probably a vain one. It took a professional team to build it, it took eager, passionate volunteers to see it reach any altitude, it would take financial support to set it fuelled up and returning to flight. For whatever reason, PLANE has been abandoned by those who have the influence needed to maintain it. Relegated to the level of sad anecdote as an indication of a disturbing change in priorities.
    It was built, they did come but it was demolished without consultation. A hard lesson for those who contributed their goodwill.
    Pity! Regards, Deb Hogg (Sydney)

    • I agree, PLANE has been abandoned and left an empty shell. No recognition for those who gave of their passion and no ongoing certification.
      I always felt it was not properly supported by the PLANE team. Principals and exec staff had hardly heard of PLANE in their busy lives. I never heard a SED refer to PLANE, though they might have.
      You need to get the Principals and district leaders onboard to really get ground support. That was never even attempted to my knowledge. Principals get a lot of emails and forward them on or throw them out.

      • cgparkin says:

        Thanks Viviene – good points! For me, it was also about the lag. I heard about it early this year, when it had already been going for about 3/4 of a year. How many people (principals included?) have yet to hear about it? It highlights the need for more than just upfront money – an investment in protecting the investment also needs to be made, in this case, ensuring that it was supported for a sufficient amount of time going forward. It seems a shame to paint the Mona Lisa, only to store it in a trunk a year later.

    • cgparkin says:

      Thanks for the comprehensive reply Deb. It has been a mystery, in many ways, coming at it from the other side – trying to ascertain what might or might not be going on as a person using the site more casually. My post was, in part, aiming to work out if it was the shell that it appears to be – as mentioned, typing in various search terms into Google has yielded very little.
      One of the measurements for my eLearning assignment of an OLC is its timeframe. I’d never really thought about more than as a defined course parameter, much as I am working to with my trimester framework of each subject. I think PLANE has brought this element into sharp focus and, as you point out, the prodigious amount of money and goodwill invested has been compromised. I can only imagine what it must be like for those who had invested so heavily, in so many ways.
      I suppose it will continue to exist in cyberspace for some time and that a lot of the coursework is still worthy. It is just such a shame, as you so eruditely point out that a change in priorities has seen the OLC, with the emphasis on the “C”, come to a crashing halt and the efforts of so many unheralded.
      Thanks again for your response.

  2. Frances Quinn says:

    Clive did you ever hear or find out any more about what happened and why? There could be really useful lessons in this for future initiatives…

    • cgparkin says:

      Hi Frances – thanks for the comment (though I haven’t used the site much for a while). The short answer is ‘no’. The longer answer is harder to work through, since I did a bit of a search about 2-3 months ago and even the information ‘about’ the site is quite hard to find.
      If I had to guess, I think it was ambitious from the start, but with little thought as to how it might be funded going forward. Lots of ‘bling’ and fanfare and then abandonment. It is such a shame as it shouldn’t have cost much to keep going if it had been thought through a bit more.
      I suppose much of what it did offer in terms of PD has been replaced by other online ‘free’ courses (such as Codecademy or Coursera) but thus doesn’t mean what it offered wasn’t worthy of being kept going.

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