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Our survey said… a GLOWing report…

September 2, 2006

I first became aware of the NTL:Telewest survey about internet usage in my local paper, the Perthshire Advertiser, or as it’s known, the PA. In time-honoured fashion, the PA hasn’t quite got its story right… it claims that:

Nine out of 10 teachers in Fair City [Perth] schools believe that pupils who don’t have the net at home are disadvantaged…

Now at first I was confused because, as a Fair City teacher, I was fairly certain I hadn’t been asked about this, nor had I heard about the survey. This isn’t me being big-headed either, it’s just that most IT things that come into the school end up crossing my desk/inbox at some time.

Suitably intrigued, I googled “ntl Telewest survey pupils access” and was soon looking at the NTL Press release and finding out just how inaccurate the PA report was.

It turns out that the NTL survey was a national survey of 500 teachers, and was actually asking about internet usage in class rather than at home. Now this in itself raises questions… and we don’t need to be surprised that the NTL:Telewest survey should find that most teachers would like to have more internet access… perhaps provided by NTL:Telewest?…

Collaboration

One thing the report said was that:

The main use of the internet in the classroom is for access to online learning (46 per cent) and research (42 per cent), with just one per cent using the available bandwidth to collaborate with other schools and businesses.

Only one percent (my emphasis) of schools using the internet for collaboration suggests that GLOW (the artist formerly known as SSDN) is long overdue. We have had the technologies available for using online collaboration for quite a while, yet there seems to be very little of it happening… or am I wrong? Collaboration/networking/call it what you wish, is one of the most exciting aspects of GLOW as I see it. I’ve already said that I look forward to using Glow as a means of keeping in touch with my colleagues at the last school I taught at. We used to work well as a department, and with GLOW, the geographical distance will not be (I hope) a factor.

For me, that is an obvious and easy use of the technology… but it was a conversation with one of the Geography teachers that made me realise that there could be much more to this than first meets the eye. By collaborating with schools elsewhere in Scotland, we can bring many more aspects of the curriculum to life. Here’re are a couple of examples we discussed:

Glaciation: find out what a school in the Highlands can provide by way of photographs, fieldwork — and in return, we could provide information and photos about flooding and prevention measures taken near our school…

Agriculture: Perth is surrounded by soft fruit growers and potatoes, and this in turn has lead to a massive influx of Polish and Eastern European workers (some of whom are also now working as cleaners in my school!)… by linking with a school in an area of different land use (we were thinking about fish-farming on the West Coast of Scotland), we could get pupils to discuss the impact that these differences have on the local economy…

The possibilities are immense, if only we can find a way to tap into them in as creative and imaginative and as educationally soundly as possible…

Timetables and Collaboration

Of course, there is a problem built into collaborating with other schools… timetabling. I remember being told that at one point, the French education minister could look at the clock in his office and know that every pupil in France was studying Maths, or History, or… you get the idea. I don’t know if this story is apocryphal or not, but it does keep coming back to me when I think of how we could arrange collaborative sessions with other schools when GLOW goes online. Could we end up with Learning & Teaching Scotland (LTS) designing a common timetable for every school in Scotland? I think it extremely unlikely, but it does remind us that there is more to the lack of collaboration between schools than just the technical issues.

Technical know-how is needed, and this is where I hope GLOW has it right. By training GLOW Mentors to act as advisors and innovators in the local authorities, LTS are extending the lessons they learned from the NOF training (I dug out my NOF pack the other day, and just about wet myself laughing at how out-of-date some of it already seems to be… other parts are remarkably prescient!). The NTL survey pointed out that:

More than a third of teachers surveyed also felt there was a lack of access to the right ICT skills and training to support e-learning effectively…

GLOW has to address this directly. Whilst the appointment of Mentors is going to be crucial to GLOW’s success, I can’t help but wonder what happens after the initial two year period. Is it the hope that GLOW will be sufficiently embedded after two years to allow it to continue without mentors (and if this is the case, who will train the new teachers? …the training colleges? …the local authorities? …enthusiastic unpromoted staff? …the PT Computing?).

The Five Two Year Plan…

I have this feeling that there may need to be more provision for training/mentoring. If GLOW is as important to Scottish Education as I think it is going to be, then we need to take a longer-term strategic position. I would advocate the appointing of full-time GLOW mentors. These would be people who have a real grasp of the potential for GLOW, and would provide the appropriate level of training and support for the GLOW’s users (staff and pupils). They could be involved with the sourcing and provision of online materials, and should also be seen and used as ambassadors for GLOW on the national and international stage… after all… there has to be something to GLOW that we could market to others…

I could say more, but I’d like to find out what you think, so:

  • How are you going to use GLOW to collaborate?
  • Do we need to timetable collaboration between schools, or will it happen organically?
  • Can collaboration happen without a nationally set timetable?
  • And what happens when the Mentors have gone?

Answers on a postcard to… CLICK HERE TO COMMENT!

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