Time To Get Glowing…
My work as part of the ICT Excellence in Education group (ICTEdEx) is over, and our report was recently published. The next stage has been to hand our recommendations over to an implementation group who are charged with carrying them forward. In an ideal world, the implementation group would simply take what we have asked for and make it happen… but this is not an ideal world, is it?
One of the most encouraging aspects of the ICTEdEx group was that practitioners like myself and Ian Stuart, Jaye Richards-Hill, Fraser Spiers, Jo Bell and Charlie Love were an integral part of the process. All of the groups’ thinking was grounded in the realities of classroom practice. Between us, we know what works, we know what is possible, and we know how to enable this to happen for all teachers, learners and parents in Scotland. In fact, it is no secret that we were all aware of the sterling work that Charlie Love in particular has been undertaking to create Glew. Glew — for those that aren’t yet aware of it — is a brilliant, working, open example of everything we all hoped Glow would be first time round. It reflects the panoply of tools that are available and is designed from the ground up to be platform and provider agnostic. It encompasses a blog and wiki engine, an e-portfolio element, a Moodle VLE, a survey engine… and even better, Charlie is actively looking for suggestions for new tools and services for inclusion. In short, it fulfils all the requirements for a teacher wishing to move their learning online.
The danger with handing over our recommendations is that we are at the mercies of those who are not hands-on classroom practitioners on a day-to-day basis. They will make decisions based on political expediency, on business interests, on career prospects, and on a knowledge of ICT in education that is just too many steps removed from the realities of the online world that we now inhabit and into which our learners will be moving. I think it would be a terrible waste were all our recommendations to be ignored… in fact, I think they should be adopted lock, stock and barrel — especially as they are designed to allow for new services and ideas to be added as they arise. But, and it’s a big but at that, we have put forward recommendations and as such, they can be adopted or ignored and there is very little I can do other than look on from the sidelines and think about what may have been.
One thing that it may be worth remembering in all this is that, as far as connected learning goes, everything we do is very much in its infancy. The rapid adoption of ‘smart phones‘ (PDF Download), the rapid expansion of 4G networks, and the inevitabilities of Moore’s Law mean that the learners will soon have more technology in their hands than a school can ever hope to provide. In this setting, we will soon find ourselves without any real need to access the school network or Glow unless it offers something of value. The low take up of many of the original Glow’s services can be seen as being symptomatic of the lack of relevance of them. What we endeavoured to do with our recommendations was propose a solution that would be powerful, flexible and adaptable and that would recognise the professionalism and knowledge of classroom teachers. If the implementation group fail to realise this, or allow outside factors to dictate their decisions, then there is a real danger that instead of providing a dynamic and powerful set of tools to enable and support learning, they will have created another edughetto with little hope of popular support and usage. Without a compelling reason to use it, the next generation of Glow will be replaced by the hotspot option of 4G smartphone and all our work will have been for nothing. Our learners deserve better.