ADES and RM…..is there something we should know?
Posted January 25, 2013on:
Spotted just before Christmas in the Raddison Glasgow hotel not far from Optima Towers (operations centre for the current iteration of GLOW) Association of Directors of Education Scotland (or ADES) Scottish Government link person and former director of education Bruce Robertson meeting with John McCarney, current head of the GLOW program and Education services for RM, the education computer business. Now RM are prominently displayed on the ADES website as being ‘supporters’. Many might say that if ADES wants to be at the centre of education policy and project development in Scotland, it would be unwise, to say the least, to be so closely associated with a major government supplier/contractor.
Regular readers of this blog may well recall the presence of another director of education Glenn Rodger on the old GLOW program board as the ADES representative. ADES was/is sponsored by RM. Glenn did not declare this as a possible conflict of interest whilst he was a member of the board ( at least, according to an FOI answer I received from the Scottish Government). This is the very board, chaired, of course, by the departed Trudy Sharpe, which prevaricated on making vital decisions about the future of GLOW and failed to act on a recommendation to go with Google apps for education, setting a train crash sequence of events buggering up GLOW’s evolution into something more usable by allowing CTO Andy McLintock to ‘offer to review’ the work done by ES and Charlie Love
(specifically on GLEW).
As is well known, all of this led to Google withdrawing after a slewed and botched procurement exercise, clearing the way for Microsoft 365 and a payday for ADES sponsors RM to the tune of £500K a month. We all know, thanks to the fabulous technical analyses by the aforementioned Charlie Love, that both MS 365 waves 14 and 15 and the RM front end product, Unify, have major usability flaws with some mobile devices (although MS are working hard to fix their end of this). In short, the Scottish Government, taxpayers, and learners up and down the land have at least for the moment, got a bum deal. Education technology expert Theo Keutchel (well worth a follow on Twitter; he’s @Theokuechel ) suggested that Unify sounded like it might be described as “all digital fur coat with no knickers” to me recently, in response to Charlie’s analysis. I agreed.
So, is there a link between ADES and this? I’m sure its nothing more than coincidence. But anyone who heard Bruce and Harris Academy Heidie Jim Thewlis in full flow ( talk of ‘forcing’ teachers to use GLOW to access school communications and national 4 and 5 resources!! ) at the recent Science Centre GLOW promo show might be forgiven for thinking that way. I know a few folks who attended the ADES organised event that were quite embarrassed by the presentations, complete with titanic and lifeboat analogies. It was me who, nearly two years ago, wrote that the GLOW programme was drifting rudderless without direction. If I’d been in one of these lifeboats, I’d have loaded up with the good bits of GLOW and paddled at full pelt away from the sinking titanic as fast as I could have managed rather than try to have saved a sinking old wreck! You can read one report of this conference here. If Bruce and Jim really subscribe to such an outdated management philosophy then I’m very shocked. To have to ‘force’ people to log into GLOW just shows how completely irrelevant it has become. As the ICTEx report makes clear, its a ‘toxic’ brand which now needs to disappear
That ADES is so closely linked to RM does concern me though. Too much opportunity for criticism of unfair influence in my view. Any group which wants to be a part of education decision-making needs to be clearly separate from education contractors and suppliers.
So, we have Glen Rodger from ADES on the old GLOW board. Bruce Robertson from ADES meeting with John McCarney from RM. An ADES organised GLOW promo show pushing forward a sub-standard RM/MS version of GLOW as if it was the post 12/13 solution. In my view, that just about disqualifies ADES or their representatives from having any role on the GlowPlus implementation board whilst this link with RM remains, otherwise they might well be considered by many as little better than a lobby group.
I’ve spent the last three years asking challenging and uncomfortable questions about GLOW both publicly and privately. I think this has helped shed light in a few dark corners, and contributed to the setting up of ICTEx, which is a new way of doing things, particularly for the civil servants at the learning directorate in the Scottish Government. Learning directorate head Sarah Smith alluded to the need to reflect on this experience in her farewell message to the ICTEx group.
Just because I’ve been a member of the ICTEx group doesn’t mean I’m going to stop this inquisitive, direct (and some might say awkward) approach, and I think some other group members would say that this has been the case during our deliberations. Many have expressed the opinion on here and in other places that an ‘awkward squad’ is a very necessary check and balance. And I think the very existence of ICTEx proves that we have an Education secretary who is determined to do things more openly and differently than might have been the case in the past.
And despite rumours of senior ES figures commenting that ICTEx and GlowPlus work are an ‘irrelevance’ and that ES will just continue with MS365 having procured an authentication system to front it up, there is more of a need than ever for the work of the ICTEx group to become a reality. My recent comment piece in Holyrood Magazine set out my thoughts on how we might move this work forward.
But is there the political will to make it happen? And careful selection of the people who will be taking the project forward, free from potential conflicting associations? Let’s see. We’ve made a great start with the ICTEx group making proposals which are workable and most importantly, user-centred. After the very public debacle’s of the past, its crucially important that the GLOW replacement project continues to be transparent and open as well as free from potential conflicts of interest. Now that we are embarking on the implementation phase , the highest standards for public life and conduct will be necessary and demanded by the Scottish Education Community. Proper scrutiny of the work done by the implementation group will therefore be an important part of the overall Glow replacement project over the coming months.
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