Last Tuesday I attended the Frog Conference for 2013. Frog are a modern and agile company and this event was exceptionally well organised with attention to the wider picture and the detail of delegate needs. Having been invited to join a panel in the afternoon discussing whether or not the ‘traditional’ learning platform is dead, I was treated to a hotel room and a lovely meal with staff and fellow contributors on the Monday evening. Thank you very much to Frog for being such generous and friendly hosts.
All talks and presentations will be available soon here I believe.
So, what are my thoughts on Frog and the announcements that were made? Well, first of all it is important to note that Frog made a great effort to place teaching and learning at the heart of the conference and any delegate would be able to attend presentations on classroom practice or on Frog features being used. I wanted to attend more presentations than I was able to. This is a good thing! Should there be any factual inaccuracies in this post, please let me know and I will correct them.
- Frog Moments App; text, images and video straight from the app to your frog drive. Could be useful.
- Frog Drive App; think Google Drive or dropbox style cloud file storage. Potentially an excellent solution for managing files from iOS (Android was not mentioned) onto web.
- Frog Play; visual grade book that records progress. Couldn’t quite see the detail but it looked to be pretty useful.
- FrogOS sites look great.
- Frog Store; a place where all Frog material can be shared. I think it is the intention that this will be like the app store or google play in that some stuff will be free and others at a cost. Quite how this will take shape is not clear.
- PinPoint; this is a search engine that trawls specific services, e.g. Google images. Interestingly, Google require a payment for inclusion of the image search results because it bypasses their advertising system. Frog will pay this levy, which indicates how highly they value incorporating the rest of the web into their learning platform. Also, because everything is still linked to the web rather than downloaded as an image and re-uploaded into your Frog, Frog are able to track the usage of each resource. This will form part of a rating engine that will ultimately help teachers locate well-used (and therefore better quality?) resources to incorporate into their learning material.
- I did not see Frog3 and FrogOS being integrated. For all current Frog schools using Frog3, the major concern is how will all the current Frog work be married with the new Frog? The platforms are written in an entirely different code. The former is not supported on anything other than Windows and Internet Explorer. I was a little disappointed not to see this but when I asked the question on twitter earlier today, the very charming Frogger, Lucy Evans, replied.
Followed by a further response from the ever-helpful Frogger James Shackley:
So, it looks like it’s coming – watch this space!
UPDATE 28/6/13, James sent me this video link for Frog3 and FrogOS: http://vimeo.com/69091946
- Other than the two apps demoed on the day, I believe (please correct me if I am wrong) Frog does not work on smartphones despite being HTML5-based. It doesn’t quite render on the screen size as I documented here. Tablets are fine. This could be a deal breaker for BYOD schools that allow the smaller devices to be used in class. Although the two mobile apps do deliver some workflow functionality that will connect to Frog Drive, which have significant potential in incorporating smart phones into your Frog workflow.
- I’m not concerned about this with one condition: I want there to be a notifications app that delivers your notifications feed from FrogOS onto your handset. Pop-up notifications, with the user able to switch certain ones on and off. For example, if a pupil submits a piece of work or contributes to a forum on one of my courses, I’m not sure I want to be pinged on my phone. However, if they send me a message of some sort, I want to know about it ASAP so my intervention can unblock their progress.
There was a lot of very positive chatter about Frog OS. It looks very impressive because of the simple means of creating content and contacting groups and curating learning. Should you be starting fresh with Frog, FrogOS is definitely worth considering.
The Traditional VLE is dead
I was also invited to be part of a panel discussion questioning whether or not the traditional VLE (as defined by Becta back in the day) is dead. The good news is Frog seem to have a clear understanding that trying to be all things to all users is not the way forward. Learning platforms need to be agile and provide a hub to help all users find what they are looking for in reference to the group of people they are working with. Be that, for example, a class, a year group, or a sports team. There are many ways of doing this but each school will need a hub of some sort where their users will first look for support. Equally, if you would like all your teachers to provide an online element in their work, you need to provide a platform which is set up for them to use. Also, the pupil population need an online presence: school council, student voice, eco-council, sports teams, clubs and societies. All these different groupings, in my experience, want a place where their audience will expect to find their content and communique. A learning platform, such as Frog, delivers this in a simple format to suit a broad range of users. Another reason for having a learning platform is that a teacher who has never used online tools before might well need a school-provided service to get started with. One of the Year Heads at my school was never a big ICT user but has used the launch of Frog in our school as a lever to design pages and update them weekly with news and events and advice for her year group. If the school did not employ a platform of some sort, this would never have happened. The welcome knock-on effect is her increased usage with her classes.
As Gareth Davies mentioned in his opening keynote, other learning platforms are stopping development. It might be they are falling by the wayside. Frog are not; they are growing. You can no longer pretend that the technology is working. You cannot keep telling teachers that this is what must be done. You must provide as flexible a platform as possible to enable your community to build and share and navigate their way through school and through learning. I am in no doubt that Frog are working hard to achieve this with FrogOS. I am anxious to see the integration with Frog 3 but they are working with urgency to get this sorted. I suspect it will not be a perfect solution but a transitional vehicle from the old to the new.
For each school, I think it is important to identify your core purpose for online provision and decide what is right for you. I anticipate we will be sticking with Frog in their mission to be the best learning platform. There are many ways to skin a cat. The traditional VLE is dead in as much as it has evolved into something lighter, faster, and inclusive of all internet-based things. However, this journey of evolution is not a smooth process and it will not have a destination. Right now, the best you may hope for is some stability whilst we teachers continue to develop effective methods of using the internet as part of the staple learning diet.
I have tried to include the most important things from my experience of the day but I will have probably missed a few. If you have any questions I am happy to answer them via the comments.