On Wednesday 21st September over 100 education professionals attended TeachMeet SLF 11 at the Glasgow Science Centre. Though not giving a presentation, I did participate by hosting a Round Table discussion on Glow, Scotland's National Education Intranet.
There has recently been a great deal of discussion about the future for Glow and ICT in general in Scotland's education sector. Input is being sought from teachers, parents, pupils and representatives of further and higher education and industrial sectors the #EduScotICT discussion.
The premise of the round table discussion I hosted was simple - what did users of Glow love about using Glow, hate about using Glow and would they want to change about Glow for whatever comes in the future?
The discussions round the table gave a great insight into the differing experiences of users in different education sectors, schools and Local Authorities. They also highlighted the very different approaches taken to rolling out, developing and supporting Glow.
Participants were given three different colours of sticky notes and asked to write on each colour what they LOVE about Glow (yellow), HATE about Glow (pink) and WANT for future Glow (green).
This is a summary of the responses -
LOVE IT -
- single login to secure environment with broad range of tools
- access to blogs, wikis, forum tools not accessible elsewhere on internet due to LA internet filtering
- tools allowing collaboration - Glow groups, blogs, wikis, forum, discussions, chat
- facility for pupils to have their own area in Glow - My Glow - which is portable from primary into secondary school
- facility to use Glow blog for pupil ePortfolios
- ability to form Glow groups for classes, departments, interest groups to collaborate and communicate within schools, LAs and nationally
ability to interact with pupils and colleagues via Glow groups
- facility to store and access documents from anywhere via document stores & Glow Learn
- broad range of National Level glow groups for sector, subject, special events and interest groups
- resources and externally procured content available on National site
- login is too complex for many users - not just pupils
- system is too complex for many users, requires lots of time to 'learn the ropes'when time is a precious commodity for staff
- new users put off by unfriendly and unfamiliar interface - should look/work more like popular tools, e.g. facebook, twitter etc
- confident users frustrated by 'clunkiness' of portal - poor functionality, lack of standard facilities available in other tools (e.g. multiple file/folder uploads)
- LA blocking of external content which Glow allows users to embed into groups
- implementation in some schools - early prioritisation of staff and pupil login without there being any content, little or no emphasis on USE
- lack of on-going suport for users - no time, money, staff etc
- search facility very poor - too difficult to find users and content
- no facility to opt out of Glow groups, often created at National level and not targeted to interested groups
- content created by ITE students is lost when leaving training to enter the profession
- potential of Glow Learn is rendered useless by it being so incredibly fiddly to use (three day training should have raised concerns)
WANT IT -
- much easier login procedure - especially for younger pupils
- better support in schools - give mentors/trainers time to support colleagues
- simpler interface incorporating common social media approaches - opt in to interest groups, 'like' facility to share content, better targeted news feed
- shared media library of free to air TV content
- ability to create guest accounts locally to include external partners - e.g community groups etc
- make Glow Learn easier to use, and allow easier sharing of resources by users at LA and national level
- improved set up, provision and portability of user accounts - vital for staff and students moving between schools
- "for everyone in the country to hurry up and get on"
It's not for me to draw conclusions, or make recommendations here, but there are a few observations worth making about this discussion.
Everyone around the table could see the benefits that using Glow had brought to them and, in many cases, their pupils.
All had devoted a great deal of time and effort into making Glow work for them, their colleagues and pupils.
All agreed that Glow, in whatever form it will take in the future, must be allowed and encouraged to grow and develop, adopting new tools and techniques as they become available and ditching those that don't work or go unused (has anybody used Glow Messenger?) in order to secure its success.
For this to happen the culture surrounding ICT in the education sector must change. A very common view of ICT in our schools is that it is an 'extra', 'just a tool' and that pupils will 'pick up what they need as they go along'. Many at the round table discussion agreed that it the profile of ICT as a vital skill must be raised.
It is my opinion that it should have an equal status with Literacy, Numeracy and Health & Wellbeing within Curriculum for Excellence, as it encompasses so many areas of each. Ensuring that ICT becomes the responsibility of all teachers across all subject areas would drive up the skills and confidence of pupils and staff alike, but this can only be achieved if there are suitable tools, and the time and support available for us all to learn to use them.