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John Simkin

BBC and Digital Learning

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Despite the attempts by commercial publishers to block the move, BBC's Jam Project, will be launched on 27th January. The £150m five year project is intended to complement and reinforce classroom activity. The first six subjects to be covered are Maths, English, Science, Geography, French and Business Studies. According to one report: "The tone is playful, with games, stories, cartoons and activities to woo children to engage but at their own speed, without pressure."

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Despite the attempts by commercial publishers to block the move, BBC's Jam Project, will be launched on 27th January. The £150m five year project is intended to complement and reinforce classroom activity. The first six subjects to be covered are Maths, English, Science, Geography, French and Business Studies. According to one report: "The tone is playful, with games, stories, cartoons and activities to woo children to engage but at their own speed, without pressure."

Presumably this will be free??

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Despite the attempts by commercial publishers to block the move, BBC's Jam Project, will be launched on 27th January. The £150m five year project is intended to complement and reinforce classroom activity. The first six subjects to be covered are Maths, English, Science, Geography, French and Business Studies. According to one report: "The tone is playful, with games, stories, cartoons and activities to woo children to engage but at their own speed, without pressure."

Presumably this will be free??

Completely free. That is why the commercial publishers complained. "Using tax papers money to subsidize competitors" argument.

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Despite the attempts by commercial publishers to block the move, BBC's Jam Project, will be launched on 27th January. The £150m five year project is intended to complement and reinforce classroom activity. The first six subjects to be covered are Maths, English, Science, Geography, French and Business Studies. According to one report: "The tone is playful, with games, stories, cartoons and activities to woo children to engage but at their own speed, without pressure."

Presumably this will be free??

Completely free. That is why the commercial publishers complained. "Using tax papers money to subsidize competitors" argument.

Sounds wholly better than the "using tax payers money to subsidise crap commercial companies hopeless e-learning products" argument used by said crap commercial companies defending the e-learning credits disgrace :lol:

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Sounds wholly better than the "using tax payers money to subsidise crap commercial companies hopeless e-learning products" argument used by said crap commercial companies defending the e-learning credits disgrace :lol:

Mr Bitter... Mr Angry... ? :lol:

Good that the BBC is using it's money to this purpose, although note there's no history on the Beeb site yet... No doubt it will come. Perhaps the complaining companies could use the Business Studies section to guide them as they improve the service they offer.

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Good that the BBC is using it's money to this purpose, although note there's no history on the Beeb site yet... No doubt it will come. Perhaps the complaining companies could use the Business Studies section to guide them as they improve the service they offer.

I expect the decision to leave history to the last is the result of commercial pressure. History is the area that the commercial publishers have concentrated on in the past. The important issue is the relationship between teachers and the BBC. I have worked with television companies in the past. Although they use teachers as advisors (advice they often ignore) they rarely employ them as creators. It was the same problem I had at the Guardian (Learn).

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BBC Jam

I have just had a look at the French course. What a waste of taxpayers' money! It's far too flashy, too patronising, too slow (even on broadband), the pedagogy is highly dubious and the navigation is confusing. A decent set of CD-ROMs does a far better job - and in addition offers the possibility of recording and playing back one's own voice, e.g. the EuroTalk CD-ROM series which have featured prominently in the last three London Language Shows and proved a big hit with schoolchildren and adults alike.

And to cap it all, the BBC have closed down the unit that produces TV language broadcasts for adult learners. The last two TV broadcast series (Greek and Mandarin Chinese) were excellent. If the Web is the way the BBC perceives the future they'll have to do a lot better to catch up with their broadcasting standards.

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I’ve now had a bit more time to look at BBC Jam French…

- The BBC Jam page at http://www.bbc.co.uk/jam/ opens with a Flash-driven sequence consisting of menus bouncing up and down – very jazzy, but this can create problems (see below). It took me some time to work out what I had to do in order to call up the French materials and then find out whether I had to register as a user in the boxes inviting me to do so or just dive straight in. I decided to dive straight in.

- The navigation is confusing. Essentially, it’s driven by a beach scene image with hot spots. The user has to explore the image to locate the activities. I didn’t like it as it was unclear what I should be doing, but it might appeal to spotty 14-year-old males who like a trial-and-error approach.

- There are video sequences, which are irritatingly slow to load, even on my 1Mb broadband connection. These are linked with a series of multiple-choice exercises, with zero feedback apart from a tick or a cross.

- The slowness of interaction will probably frustrate youngsters used to fast action video games.

- There is a cartoon strip (bande dessinée), which is just a linear presentation. I learned very little from this, apart from a few new French words such as. "vroummm!", "boum!", "cool", "super", "crii!", and I can now recognise different motor car sounds. I've also driven my neighbours mad with the loud throbbing music in the background.

- I looked at the crossword puzzle based on motoring terminology. It’s slow. Entering the letters takes time. And how relevant is this language to teenagers?

Have the designers BBC Jam learned nothing from the development of computer assisted learning over the last 30 years? A lot of effort has gone into flashy presentations and not enough into the pedagogy. It’s mainly linear point-and-click stuff. The site displays two fundamental weaknesses, namely a lack of structure and a lack of a clear contents page indicating what's there and where it can be found. Above all, the site breaks the No. 1 rule of instructional software design insofar as it fails to provide a "default route": v. Laurillard 1996:36): "the route through the material that the author believes to be optimal".

Providing a clear indication of what a software package contains and where it can be found saves teachers time. My frustration with BBC Jam French is due to a large extent that I haven't a clue where I am and where I am supposed to be going. I don't have the time or patience to find out things by trial and error.

Reference:

Laurillard D. (1996) Formative evaluation report, Hull: The TELL Consortium, University of Hull. The document is available as a downloadable file from: http://www.hull.ac.uk/cti/tell/eval.htm

A waste of money

Don’t forget that BBC Jam is costing licence payers 150 million pounds – across all the subjects, however, not just the French. The BBC actually asked for 170 million pounds originally, but it was reduced to 150 million. Money for Jam, eh?

You can read the whole story about Research Machines' formal complaint to the Commission about BBC Digital Curriculum (i.e. BBC Jam as it is now known) and the subsequent decision.

http://www.reckon.co.uk/open/BBC_Digital_Curriculum

See also the BBC's summary:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/policies/digital_curriculum5.shtml

Donald Clark appears to agree with me. He descibes BBC Jam French as a "sticky mess" in his blog at:

http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2006/...ticky-mess.html

Donald Clark has also reviewed the BBC Jam Business Studies materials:

http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/

BBC Jam and Curriculum Online

Furthermore, the BBC Jam website is “approved” under the DfES Curriculum Online initiative:

http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk/

My personal view of Curriculum Online is that it is nothing short of a scandal. I could go on endlessly about this – but it’s a long story.

The BBC is clearly shifting its emphasis from TV broadcasting of educational materials to online resources. The unit that produced the excellent TV series for adult learners of languages (e.g. the series for learners of Greek and Mandarin Chinese) has now been closed down. There was resistance to this from the Association for Language Learning, but obviously not enough.

Problems with Flash Version 8.0:

I decided to give BBC Jam another go on 24 February. On accessing the site I was informed that my Flash player was out of date (I had Version 7.0 installed), so I clicked on the pop-up to download and install Version 8.0. The result:

Flash 8.0, when installed, causes Internet Explorer 6.0 to display an error message and crash every time I access any Web page that uses Flash. A Google search revealed that this is a widespread problem and that solving it is not that easy. For the time being I have had to uninstall Flash 8.0 in order to be able to use my browser efficiently.

The moral: Intro screens using Flash with menus bobbing up and down may look jazzy but may be excluding users who have experienced the same problem as I have. Keep It Simple, Stupid! (KISS!)

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BBC has taken down its interactive learning service, Jam, after complaints from UK software companies, who claimed it was damaging their business.

This free online digital curriculum was launched in January 2006 after five years in the making and with a total budget of £150m. Lord Puttnam has rightly described this decision as a “betrayal of a generation of children”. It is also a terrible waste of tax-payers money.

This product has been taken off the market after pressure from the British Educational Suppliers Association. Not content with the e-credit system that has forced schools to spend millions on inferior software and online content, it has now removed the main provider of free content on the web. It hopes that schools will now pay for material that in the past they could have obtained free from the BBC website.

No doubt, members of the British Educational Suppliers Association will now be making donations to the Labour Party. It might also gain it support from the Guardian who are the owners of one of the largest companies, Learn, in this sector.

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Essentially, I am delighted to see BBC Jam disappear. As a former language teacher, I was disappointed with the materials that were produced for learners of French - all noise and gimmicks and little evidence of sound pedagogy, especially what we have learned about computer assisted language learning over the last 30 years. As a commercial producer of software, I could not compete with the BBC, which benefited from the injection of £150 million for BBC Jam (“Money for Jam”), which derived from licence payers' money that could have been spent more wisely on producing the high-quality educational broadcasts that the BBC does so well. I saw my income from my commercial activities drop to zero over a period of two years - and so did many other small operators.

The whole Digital Curriculum initiative (which embraces Curriculum Online as well as BBC Jam) has been a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money. It's resulted in a lot of money ending up in the pockets of hi-tech consultancy businesses that would not have had the slightest interest in education if the money had not been freely available and propping up failing educational software producers.

You cannot compare closing down BBC Jam with closing down the NHS or schools. BBC Jam has helped drive producers of educational materials out of business. This could be compared to driving the companies on which the NHS relies, e.g. producers of hi-tech equipment, drugs etc, out of business. State schools rely on commercial producers: builders who build the schools, furniture manufacturers who make the desks and chairs, and publishers who produce books and computer software.

Another thing: The shift towards Web-based materials at the BBC has resulted in the closure of the unit that produced the excellent series of TV broadcasts for adult learners of foreign languages. Shame! Producing such high-quality educational broadcasts is what the BBC is really good at.

I could not disagree with your more on this issue. This is what Lord Puttnam has to say about it.

David Puttnam

Monday March 26, 2007

The Guardian

The new 10-year BBC Charter came into force on January 1 this year. Under the Charter, the second of the BBC's new public purposes, set for it by the government, is "promoting education and learning," while the sixth purpose includes "helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services." A strong BBC online presence is imperative if it is to deliver on these purposes in any meaningful way in the digital era.

Yet the new BBC Trust has instructed the corporation to suspend its online learning service, BBC Jam - a piece of news somewhat overshadowed by the Blue Peter debacle, but of far greater significance for the children of this country.

Equally worrying is what the episode says about the early direction of travel of the Trust itself, as it comes hard on the heels of an earlier decision to water down plans for the BBC's iPlayer in the wake of a market impact assessment by Ofcom that would appear to have been heavily shaped by the submissions from commercial publishing companies. So here we have a situation in which at least two of the BBC's public purposes are already at risk of being diluted by the very Trust that was put in place to advance them.

The origins of BBC Jam lie in the late 1990s. Former director general Greg Dyke first spoke in 1999 of a BBC "digital curriculum" which would bring out "the creativity and originality of the children who use it". The following year, the BBC got the thumbs-up in a public consultation on its plans. The idea went through many iterations and debates until, in May 2002, the BBC put in an application to Tessa Jowell to launch a new public service.

But not everyone was happy. Some established commercial players were alarmed by the BBC's plans to make material freely available. In January 2003 the minister gave approval, subject to 18 detailed conditions designed to limit the BBC's market impact. Meanwhile, the Department for Education decided to compensate the industry for any potential loss it might suffer from the BBC's £150m service by ring-fencing £530m over the same five-year period for schools to spend on commercial e-learning products.

But still the matter wasn't settled. The plans were referred to the European Commission because, it was claimed, BBC licence fee money (a form of "state aid") was being used to intervene in a commercial marketplace. The EC took nine months before finally giving the green light. In October 2003 the service was allowed to crank itself into action. What emerged was a learner-centred service aimed very directly at kids, not a bank of resources for teachers. In January 2006 the first elements of the new service - now called BBC Jam - went live.

But the row over commercial impact didn't go away. There were allegations that the service wasn't "complementary" to the rest of the market. Europe got worried. The BBC was asked to stop rolling out new Jam material and the UK government urged to review the service.

That was three months ago, and Europe was getting impatient. There were even rumblings that Europe might take unilateral action and close the service down. So the new BBC Trust took the initiative. It suspended the service with just six days' notice and asked management to bring forward fresh proposals for a new service. These will be subjected to a new "public value test" with a "market impact assessment" as required under the new Charter.

If you want to be generous, it's possible the Trust had no option if it didn't want to become entangled in a legal fight that could have paralysed the BBC's education service for the foreseeable future. But the current position is unnecessarily cruel.

Thousands of children have been left stranded. Not just some 173,000 who registered but the many more who dipped in and out without registering.

But now it's about to disappear. And for what? Nobody seems to know what the complaints to Europe precisely alleged. But there's not been a shred of evidence that companies are actually suffering because of the BBC. Some are doing very well, others less so - but to suggest any cause and effect related to Jam is fanciful in the extreme. It is entirely unclear what will happen to the £530m in ring-fenced funds - presumably now the BBC "threat" has been removed, the government will be thinking of releasing what's left so that schools can spend the money on what they choose.

Nor does Europe's concern for the wellbeing of industry appear to extend to those new media companies who were actually benefiting from the BBC's investment. The BBC had promised to spend half of its content budget for Jam - £45m - with external suppliers. The Pact vice-chair Andrew Chitty, whose company Illumina derives 50% of its overall work from the BBC, was quoted last week as estimating that pulling Jam would cost the new media industry £20-30m in addition to further revenue from rights ownership. In the meantime, the BBC must honour its production contracts with external suppliers. There is a real risk that some of the smaller independents could go under if the BBC does not act quickly.

It's hard to imagine an education service which has been the subject of so much politicking and so much shadowy commercial and bureaucratic self-interest - and yet where the interests of the most important party - the children - have been so badly marginalised.

One of the tasks of the Trust, quite properly, is to balance the benefit of new digital services against the likely impact on the commercial marketplace. To judge by the BBC Jam debacle, the early signs are that the judgment calls of the Trust may become neurotically weighted toward the commercial impacts, at the expense of true public interest.

http://media.guardian.co.uk/mediaguardian/...2042548,00.html

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