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It’s Been A Funny Old Week…

September 19, 2008

What do Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, and Tom Magner, Director of the US Office of Educational Technology, have in common? Not an awful lot, unfortunately.

Wednesday saw two influential people using technology to discuss the future of education in their respective countries. Fiona Hyslop was taking part in a Glow Group chatroom while Tom Magner was participating in A Discovery Education Network chat about School2.0. One event was advertised as “A live chat session…”, the other was a relatively normal session on an established medium. The two sessions could not have been more different.

Fiona_Hyslop.jpgThat Fiona Hyslop chose to use Glow to engage with teachers is to be commended, and is a sign (hopefully) of things to come… but I hope I wasn’t alone in thinking that it was a woefully inadequate session. Over the course of 20 minutes actually spent in Glow (rather than the 30 advertised), Fiona Hyslop managed to answer only 5 questions, and one of those answers consisted of: “Yes, I do”. In addition, the questions were being ‘moderated’ before we could see them… so basically, Hyslop said what she wanted to say and ignored the rest (I’m tempted to copy and paste the full transcript because it’s hidden within Glow itself, but I’d no doubt get into trouble for doing so — let’s put it this way, it wouldn’t take up too much server space!). What is really galling for me is that, at her keynote address at the Scottish Learning Festival next week, Fiona Hyslop will no doubt go on about what an innovative and wonderful experience using Glow to talk to ‘real’ teachers was… Yet her presence was not what I think Glow should be about. I want it to be about real conversation, not political point scoring…

magner-100.jpgLater that same evening, I took part in the Discovery Education Network discussion with Tom Magner about School2.0. This session consisted of an online presentation (complete with slides) of about 50 minutes duration, followed by a Q&A session (Magner even gave a really detailed and knowledgeable answer to one of my questions and I’m not even a Murcan!) Magner’s topic covered a lot of familiar ground with regards to Web2.0 and School2.0, but that didn’t matter because what came over loud and clear was his depth of knowledge of the subject and his desire to make a difference.

What was fantastic about the Magner session was that there was a live chatroom going on through the discussion. Unmoderated, and free for all in nature, people were agreeing with and criticising Magner’s points in a way that would have been inconceivable in Hyslop’s earlier session. So…

What do we want from Scottish Education? If it were up to me, I’d want more people like Tim Magner running the show in an open transparent and fully accountable way. People who are not afraid to make mistakes. People who understand the magnitude of the hill we have to climb. People who are confident and knowledgeable enough to allow and engage in genuine discussion. If I learned anything from the two sessions it was this: In Glow, Scotland has the infrastructure in place to revolutionise education, but America has the people who can facilitate the political changes necessary.

What we need to remember is this: The future doesn’t just happen, we have to make it…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. The Bass Player permalink
    September 19, 2008 9:12 pm

    Moderation annoys me, politics annoy me and if I had anything to do with it I’d keep politics and education as far away from each other as possible.

  2. mimanifesto permalink
    September 19, 2008 9:54 pm

    I can’t help but agreeing with you I’m afraid. Whilst it does demonstrate the huge potential there is with GLOW, I think Hyslop did herself no favours at all with this rather damp squib of an event…

    She will get a rough ride at SLF next week if she tries to use this 20 minutes as an example of her being in touch with classroom teachers.
    Shame – great opportunity lost here. Lets hope the next ‘guest’ chat is a little more substantive. How about the chief HMIE for starters ?


  3. Dorothy permalink
    September 20, 2008 9:44 am

    I was out on Wednesday so couldn’t take part in the Ministerial PR exercise. I wanted to read the transcript but the link on the LTS/GLOW site doesn’t work.

    Since it’s advertised as available I don’t see how it coud be anything but helpful for you to disseminate it Neil. I’d certainly appreciate a copy.

    I hold no brief for Fiona Hyslop but do think she deserves some credit for showing some willing in using technology to communicate, even if she had nothing useful to say…

    On the other hand, I attended a big meeting led by my Director of Education last week where his Powerpoint presentation was woeful to say the least, and when his mouse pointer accidentally strayed across the start menu and it popped up, he had to call a technician to get rid of it…sigh

  4. September 21, 2008 6:00 pm

    I couldn’t agree more that the future doesn’t just happen Neil, we have to make it. What will make Glow in my mind is not really ‘big names’ coming in and having a go, but rather everyday teachers sharing what they are up to and making connections.

    In fairness to the minister she has agreed to answer the questions she was asked in the session, even though she only had time to answer a few of them in the time she was there. I suspect all involved have learned a great deal about what chat can do in Glow?

  5. September 21, 2008 10:01 pm

    We can argue about whether the minister was making an genuine effort to connect with teachers by demonstrating a commitment to Glow or using it as a publicity stunt prior to her keynote address at SLF.

    I had a look at the front page of the Glow site today and, of course, this features as a block in the middle of the screen. Was this a hint of spin? Well I wanted to find out and the opportunity to view a transcript of the chat session for myself was just too good to resist.

    The text says “A full transcript of the chat session is available”, so I dived in. Imagine my dismay when I discovered you need to log in to Glow to see what the minister had to say. Not much use to those of us yet to get Glow access. I suppose it’s always easier to preach to the converted though.

  6. September 21, 2008 10:41 pm

    @AB: I don’t doubt the minister’s sincerity, and I’ve always been impressed that she actually gives a proper keynote address rather than the “Mr-Grace-You’re-all-doing-very-well” routine that her predecessors have employed, but I would still have rather had a more open discussion that made more of Glow’s potential over a heavilly moderated chatroom that could have been as easily done using non-Glow Technology. Perhaps if I hadn’t been in the Tim Magner session later, I’d have been more impressed.

    (Incidentally, the Magner session was carried out in Elluminate. As such, there were no holds barred with regards to the ‘back channel’. When we were experiencing déja vu, we said so. What was interesting was that Magner was obviously watching and responding to our chat. Even more impressive was that this was a session that was open to anyone who cared to log-in… a fact that rather neatly leads on to SInclair’s point…

    @Sinclair: At the end of the day, I don’t mind the minister holding publicity stunts if they mean that Glow will be even harder to ignore. I just wish it had been more of a real discussion. I would have loved to have come away from the session wanting to talk about how much she had said rather than how little she said…

    @Tutti: Please note, if I sound negative about Glow, I am not! It is the most incredible idea and project in any education system in the world (in my completely unbiased opinion!)… similarly, and to echo Dorothy, I have no particular axe to grind with the minister… but I do want to see Glow in the headlines for all the right reasons. I don’t want to feel used when Fiona Hsylop stands up at the SLF this week and tells everyone about how she was using Glow to engage with the teachers of Scotland last week… but I fear I will have been…

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