ICT in Education Excellence Group – First thoughts discussion paper

Photograph of Professor Muffy CalderA few months ago I wrote a blog about the ICT in Education Excellence Group, which I was asked to convene by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.  Our remit from him was to think about Glow Plus, a next-generation replacement for Glow, the schools intranet.

The Group’s work so far has focused on understanding the user requirements for Glow Plus, and the platform requirements that will underpin it.

This has been both challenging and fascinating – we need Glow Plus to fully harness the power of technology for learning, keep pace with rapidly evolving developments and speak the language of young people.  I am therefore pleased that the group has drawn on their collective experience and expertise, as well as their networks of teachers, pupils and parents.

Over the next month, we will be developing a more detailed description of the new service – with a view to, this December, making final recommendations on the structure and scope of Glow Plus.

Our first thoughts on the challenge are set out in a short discussion paper –A Digital Learning Environment for Scottish Schools.  I am keen to hear views from a wide range of stakeholders as possible on the paper – so please comment below or get in touch by emailing the Group’s Secretariat via the Engage contact page.

Prof. Muffy Calder
ICT Excellence Group

Engage section – ICT in Education
More on the ICT Excellence Group and Scotland’s ICT in Education Programme.

#EduScotICT is the main hash tag for discussion around the ICT in Education Programme.

Have your say

Join in the discussion and help us make Scottish Education even better.

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    Interesting paper, great work by the group, looks like it's coming along nicely. However by the time Glow+ is ready to be rolled out will it not just be similar to what we'll all be using next year with the replacement

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    This paper to me demonstrates a step in the right direction for Glow. I agree with the move towards a more flexible service which allows teachers and learners to customise their own apps. I also applaud the consideration for mobile devices in the design.

  • david

    My only concern is that I don't think I noticed any reference to 'usability' for want of a better term. As far as a I can tell this wasn't taken into account in the first iteration of Glow and this mistake mustn't be made again. There's a reason companies such as Apple and Google invest so much time, effort and resources in their user interface and as teachers and pupils become accustomed to this standard of design, they come to expect it and quickly switch off if it isn't up to scratch.
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    surprised that no-one has even considered the potential for chaos allowing staff to pick and choose their own tools, yes its a great idea – right up to the point that teacher leaves the school and their classes are left high and dry when a new member of staff takes over and has no experience of that system and wishes to use another one they are familiar with.

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    An online education can be just as thorough and complete as an education earned at a traditional college thanks to the invention of the internet. The education and technology an online education can bring into ones home is quite amazing in today's world.

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    surprised that no-one has even considered the potential for chaos allowing staff to pick and choose their own tools, yes its a great idea – right up to the point that teacher leaves the school and their classes are left high and dry when a new member of staff takes over and has no experience of that system and wishes to use another one they are familiar with.

    Or lets take another scenario, teacher finds a system they think looks great, jumps in and starts using it only to find they missed the small print that says after 6 months they've got to pay for it or lose it, are the schools expected to just pick up the tab or is it tough luck on the kids that they are going to lose their work because their teacher has no experience in dealing with software licencing?

    Who is going to check where the data is being stored to ensure the EU and UK guidelines are being followed? Who is going to sit and generate all these user accounts on all these products for all these teachers and all their class groups and maintain the passwords and user lists in this ideal world where any web based system can be used whether its in GLOW+ approved apps or not? Fine if its one of the main apps delivered by GLOW+ but what about all these others we're making available under this proposal?

    There are reasons other than people trying to make life awkward for teachers that restrictions exist and systems are in place to limit what is available. There has to be a sensible balance, especially as you are effectively asking IT support to take on supporting all these different products and the inevitable questions that will arise from staff and pupils when they cant figure something out. Are we seriously suggesting teachers will take on that role as well as their day jobs, will IT support be able to turn round and say "Its your choice, never heard of it – sort it yourself!" What happens when they find a new site that needs a client app or plugin installed, are teachers going to deploy these, are they going to manage the firewall to open up ports or are we just doing away with all this security nonsense in the new "open" system? Clearly someone forgot to tell the IT staff member when the group were having their meetings to put the proposals together.

  • jimbuchan

    Wrote a response but it was too long to add here – it can be read by following this link http://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=834 – Great to see some constructive comments above to what is clearly a very hight level summary of how thinking is evolving with in the group.

  • mrmcenaney

    This looks great, but does anybody really think we'll ever get to the stage where local authorities and national government relinquish their power and let us keep such a system up to date? Surely they'll just keep using the same excuse for tight control over access and tech – the legal requirement to protect children? What you are proposing would be absolutely wonderful, but I fear that the battle to implement it without watering it down beyond any use is one we will struggle to win (although I'm more than happy to be involved in the attempt).

    Fearghal's point about current Glow is also completely correct – the design of our current offering treats the user with utter contempt, and as a consequence deserves to be consigned to history. When I was at school studying AH Computing we were told that if you need user manuals and instruction guides then the design is flawed, and it is this type of mentality that needs to be implemented if we are to end up with a system that the pupils actually want to use.

    What is clear is that Glow in its current form is simply holding us back, and any new system must be designed to allow maximum access to the world of possibilities that is literally at our fingertips. In a perfect world a Glow login would give us access to the sort of sites mentioned in the document and more, but it will only work if new sites can be added very very quickly – otherwise people will simply move ahead without waiting for Glow to catch up, and once you've signed a class up for a system are you really going to want to do it all again a few months down the line when Glow access happens (with the possibility of losing all the work you've done because the glow logins create new user accounts)?

    All I really want from GlowPlus at this stage is to be able to have kids use a single sign-on for a vast range of resources, but as I have already said I sincerely doubt that such a system will really be able to keep pace with the sheer volume of superb educational resources on the internet and the pace at which they are being developed.

  • http://theokuechel.blogspot.co.uk/ Theo Kuechel

    Firstly I would like to thank the ICTex for sharing this document for information and comment with interested parties. I think it makes thought provoking reading, and I am sure it will of interest to international educators as well as those within Scotland. I am pleased to offer my initial personal comments to the debate, in the context of digital learning.

    The fundamental opening statement “Teachers should be trusted to use their professional judgment in how ICT should be used” is highly welcome and obviously non-negotiable, if the second fundamental aim is to be achieved. I think Neil Winton’s wiki approach, http://glowplustools.wikispaces.com/ is an excellent way forward. I would encourage ICTex to promote this wiki as a model and part of the consultation.

    In the features as outlined (p3.11. 1-5). I think the key ones are the authentication and the facility for users to add their own features. The 4 requirements make a bold statement of intent, (p4. 15.1-4), with connectivity being paramount. The emphasis on removing filters and the positive call for, computing devices, (inc mobile), in schools together with policies to enable BYOD and BYOT can only be welcomed. Sharing content, as described, is an essential element of digital learning and it is very encouraging to see this being addressed as a priority in the document – it is also a fundamental element of digital literacies. I think this cultural shift needs to be extended beyond Scotland, and it would be good to see Scotland take the lead here.

    I am not comfortable with the term ‘best of breed’ – it seems wishy-washy and it is not clear exactly how this definition would be applied? For example will it be a response to user (teacher/student) feedback/request, committee recommendations – a combination thereof?

    A great deal of reference is made within the document to accessing resources and tools, but there is less about students as digital makers and creators, other than references to e-portfolios; (a very broad concept). I would have liked to read more on how students use the service to build shared knowledge and digital artefacts. I realise such a philosophy is implicit within the CfE but perhaps they need stating explicitly together with implications for formative assessment.

    Whilst the scenarios make good starting point for discussion, they present a snapshot of ‘the now’ rather than the future. They illustrate practice and within mainly individual school scenarios. Whilst I appreciate these activities are good starting point for engaging teachers, they could easily be /probably are, already happening within currently available VLEs or the original Glow. Perhaps it is time to add some more scenarios national perspective that illustrate how GlowPlus moves from being a VLE/Intranet to a learning ecosystem.

    Next content, (p3 12.3), this is where we enter murky waters, it is my strongly held opinion that purchasing/procuring digital resources with public funds can be a problematic area http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/future-textboo… . Some resources may have restrictive licencing terms; for example http://goo.gl/NbvEV highly unsuitable for meaningful digital learning in 2012 – onwards, hopefully GlowPlus will demand better terms in any procurement. There is also evidence to show that publicly procured educational content is often underused.

    We are now living in a culture where high-quality educational resources are being widely distributed and freely available, many with open or Creative Commons (CC licences). Whilst a number of references are made in the document made to commercial and proprietary services I would have liked to to note some acknowledgement that OERs, (see EU education strategy http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1233_e… ) had been taken into consideration, and aknowledgement made to the big openly accessible platforms for example as Google Art Project, Khan, EOL, RijksMuseum Studio, BigHistory and emerging collaborative platforms such as iSpot, or the Historiana project. All of these can serve as templates and models for digital learning. I think it is important that ICTex scopes this as widely as possible. I would be also be interested to know more about the ‘artwork system.’

    Where GlowPlus can add real value is in developing contextual frameworks for using digital tools and content – something a VLE does not do. The learner analytics element will also be of great interest. All in all a great start made by ICTex.

  • Pam Currie

    This exactly what is required and it is required right now. Can we please stay away from lengthy piloting and just get this done. LAs are desperately in need of Government policy that allows for a diminished sense of risk. Audits, coupled with people doing their jobs efficiently means our jobs are made more difficult. This as an urgent and national strategy that efficient LAs would be inefficient in ignoring is just what we need.

  • Zebedeh

    Interesting paper, great work by the group, looks like it's coming along nicely. However by the time Glow+ is ready to be rolled out will it not just be similar to what we'll all be using next year with the replacement Glow1.365, i.e. RM unify single-sign on with additional apps (including O365). Why would LAs bother changing again to Glow+ ? The whole process of change from Glow to Glow1.365 (with MS) to Glow+ is confusing. Could someone explain it in simple terms of what LAs will be required to do, if anything?

    • mimanifesto

      I agree there is great confusion about the current migration process and the eventual introduction of GlowPlus. Its likely that the implementation will be incremental and agile, and we must manage expectations appropriately at first. LA's won't need to change to GlowPlus – it will replace the RM unify as the secure authentication portal. The user data in 365 will remain. It will be up to users which tools they use, and if 365 remains then this option will be there for them. Education Scotland will manage the migration process into 365. Thereafter, as its a free service, users will be free to continue using it…or not, as they wish. Now that WordPress is to be retained as the blogging/ePortfolio tool for the duration of the RM extension at least, some of the uncertainty has been removed, I hope. I've blogged my own commentary on expectations here… http://mimanifesto.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/great

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