A GLOW that can command the respect and support of teachers.

Remarks in moving the following motion successfully at SSTA Congress:

Congress notes the report from the ICT in Education Group set up by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and its recommendations regarding the future of GLOW and related ICT issues in schools.  Congress notes the failure of GLOW to achieve its potential and the resultant frustration for many teachers and pupils.
Congress calls upon the Cabinet Secretary to commission a successor to GLOW that can command the respect and, support of all Scotland’s teachers.

At Congress last year I argued that within the wider context of ICT in schools that:

“Unless and until schools can have IT ‘solutions’ that allow staff and pupils to immerse themselves in the task they are seeking to perform rather than… in the frustration of hardware and software…we will never see a genuine IT revolution.
It never fails to amaze me that the people who seem to dictate IT – are people who simply do not understand it.”
GLOW was conceived in and designed for a previous era in IT – where top down decision making trumped end-user experience.
It’s easy and understandable to take pot-shots at GLOW but GLOW’s failure was neither technological, nor software related but a failure of project management, implementation and communication.
As such it shares much of the same misfortune as CFE.
Following the withdrawal from Google from the tendering process for GLOW’s renewal, the Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell announced not only that the current GLOW contract would be extended until the end of this year but also that a group would be brought together to consider GLOW’s long term user-centred future.
Unlike nearly every such panel that relates to education or schools, a significant proportion of the group would be made up of – wait for it – practicing teachers! With the involvement of two pupils also facilitated.
The Group, was led by the Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Muffy Calder. It spent 5 months visiting schools across Scotland to look at the experience of using ICT for learning.
The report – published in January of this year, made a wide number of recommendations ranging from how the system is set up and supported, how it looks on screen to how it actually works.
Now the fundamental questions that any future GLOW must answer are simple:
Firstly, why use it?
Why put the effort in to change our teaching practice to incorporate the tools that GLOW offers?
How can it ensure that learning and teaching are the better because of it?
How can we ensure quality of and equality in access to GLOW – when 32 local authorities with disparate policies, priorities and resources have to lead the way?
An example of this is the issue of web filtering.
32 different filters meaning what is available to some is blocked to others.
At one point this year my school’s own website was blocked by the council filter.
The reason given was that I might be exposed to dangerous content!
Maybe the staff photo?
On this, the ICT Excellence group report suggests a simple solution – national filtering, linked to your GLOW account and avoiding stupid blocks put in place by non-educators.
At the heart of the new GLOW is in the words of Jaye Richards Hill, one of the ICT Excellence Group members:
“A secure authentication service providing access to different levels of tools and services. 
Some are core, like productivity tools and some national provided content. Others are integrated and supported by authentication.
There’s room for users to bring in their own tools and services in to one learning space. It’s responsive and user driven.
“Leveraging social network elements to share activity turns the online Glow into a thriving community, with a strong emphasis on sharing and communication between all users. 
Asking questions, discussing class work, with peers and teachers via the platform will really build a community for anytime anyplace learning.”
She refers to GLOW – as a potential school in the cloud.
That’s the vision – we need to now turn this vision into a reality.
Part of that will require better project management and leadership from the Scottish Government and Education Scotland.
It requires the direction of travel to be set by teachers rather than civil servants or corporate interests.
It also requires pressure from us – the end users.
We need to regard a digital learning environment as a right for ourselves and our pupils.
The ambition of GLOW will fail – if we are still stuck with internet connections slower than carrier pigeons, or computers that you seem to have to shovel coal into the back of to make them work.
On that note – I hope that GLOW isn’t one of Alex Salmond’s ‘shovel-ready’ capital projects.
Congress, the SSTA should support the ongoing efforts to take GLOW from its past failures to future success.
We should be vigilant to ensure that we do not have a successor to GLOW that commands the frustration and criticism of the profession – rather than its respect and support.

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