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Glow Away…

May 3, 2007

Glow Go Holiday!Today (Thursday) is the last day for us to access the Glow Portal as part of phase 2 of the testing process. This has been a really valuable phase for me as I’ve been able to get a better idea of the tools that will be available in the final version. On the whole, I am very enthusiastic about the potential it has, and also of the new tools, but there are a few niggles that I hope will be fixed at the next stage.

On the positive side, I am very impressed with the video conferencing facilities, and especially the ‘interactive whiteboard’ element of the Marratech software that is part of the package. I have taken part in a number of entertaining and informative video-conferences as part of the trial, and it makes a big difference to be able to talk fairly naturally to colleagues across the country. We’ve also had some of the bods from RM and LTS joining in which I think highlights the potential for opening up the classroom nationally and internationally! I think one of my goals for the next phase will be to try and arrange an international link-up to work on a classroom project…

I think the conferencing software has immense potential, not just for distance learning, but (thinking laterally) also for classroom/lab use as it will allow a class to interact with a teacher’s slide in a (to me) unique way… it will permit truly interactive lessons, or, if you’ll forgive the rather obvious coinage, Lessons2.0!

Also on the positive side (though with some reservations), is the use of forums in the portal for discussions. I welcome any opportunity to be able to converse with colleagues on educational matters, and the nature of Glow is such that this should be a welcome addition to the teacher’s arsenal of tools… but I do think there still needs to be some major changes to the way they are organised. Many of us are used to phpbb-style based forums and discussions, so the current set-up in Glow is a bit disappointing (I believe it is based on M$ Sharepoint, but that may not be relevant!)… from my own point-of-view, I’d like to see RSS added as a matter of some urgency.

There is also (as I found out from John) a facility for writing your own web-pages… though this does appear to be a bit cumbersome at the moment!

There were also a few negatives… which were perhaps inevitable given that this phase is effectively just a beta. The navigation is still not intuitive enough for non-technical users… in fact I seemed to spend most of my time thinking/knowing there were all these fantastic tools at my fingertips but I couldn’t find them… By way of illustration, I just wish it was possible to see what video-conferences were taking place so I could get speaking to some of the other mentors…

MentalFlossGrabAs a final point at the moment (and I know that Tessa loves No.6!)… I hope they get good designers in to give the portal a bit of an overhaul. I know it’s a judgement call, but I wasn’t particularly fond of any of the themes… If only they could take a leaf out of Bebo or Myspace’s book and make the Portal entirely modular and customizable… that way I can add the bits I want to the front page, and I can also make my own Vladstudio skins to give me a look I can live with… I think this is absolutely vital if we are to get the pupils involved in any meaningful way, and let’s be honest, if Glow is to really catch fire, we need the pupils using it just as much as we need the staff and mentors…

What do you think? What features would you like to see in a national education one-stop shop… and how would you get the pupils interested and involved?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2007 12:30 am

    Having had my first look at it yesterday, the main thing that struck me about Glow was that there was so many features available but it seemed that they had been added on to the design as they had been dreamt up. It meant that there was an overload of alleys for navigation – too many ways to access lots of similar features.

    I think there does need to be an intervention from some web designers, many of the features I saw where hidden by poorly thought out page layout. One of the things that I’d like to make an important part of teaching design (which is what I will be teaching next year, fingers crossed) is information design and page layout – Glow as it stands would make a fantastic example of lots of things to do wrong for intuitive page layout!

  2. May 4, 2007 12:35 am

    I know what you mean. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of it being a series of modules á la Bebo/MySpace et al… this will give me the option of customizing the space into something I can work in.

    I’ve already got some thoughts that I’m going to have to sort out for another post!

  3. May 5, 2007 6:35 pm

    Like you Neil, I feel that getting GLOW to be pupil friendly will be important. I think that an obvious way would be to invite pupils to enter GLOW via some sort of site that seems like ‘our school’s’, and to carry that identity out into any wider groups.

    Speaking as someone who teaches in a rural school whose nearest secondary is 25 minutes away- GLOW represents a fantastic opportunity for pupils to communicate with their peers. ‘Customisation’ is good -but initially ‘comprehensible’ will be key, I think.

  4. May 6, 2007 12:29 am

    “I can also make my own Vladstudio skins to give me a look I can live with…”

    *sigh*

  5. May 6, 2007 3:37 pm

    Great post Neil, as I have had a monster of a working week, both blog and sleep have been sacrificed 😦 I am going to write a small post just now and if it’s ok, rather than rewrite what you have said, I will refer people to your post.
    Bring on Phase 3!

    Tess:)

  6. May 6, 2007 6:00 pm

    Just re-reading my comment I sound very negative, I didn’t mean to at all.

    I was very impressed with what was on offer, just concerned that all the good things on offer might all get lost behind a poor front end.

  7. May 6, 2007 6:25 pm

    @Stuart: I have no problems with people being (or appearing to be) negative! I’d far rather have constructive ideas than silence… I just hope the Glow and RM bods realise that any niggles and problems we highlight are just that…

    @Liz: I think you have highlighted one of the real strengths/true potential of Glow. I teach in a big secondary in a town with a couple of other secondary schools in close proximty… so it is easy for me to meet and converse with colleagues. Glow offers tat potential to all Scotland’s teachers, and importantly, pupils.

    @z3rb: Believe me… Vladstudio is better than the skins we have at the moment… even on Linux! 😉

    @Tess: re-phase 3 – I agree! I’m just about to send off my feedback to Glow Central and then it’s a case of waiting to see what they serve up in phase 3! (And thanks for referencing me!)

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