Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Brown

Some interesting GLOW stuff came out in the wash yesterday. Andrew Brown, head honcho of GLOW (who’s been digitally rather quiet of late) when speaking at an education and technology conference in Belfast (#agendani on Twitter) fell back on statistics again, I assume, to demonstrate to our Northern Irish friends how wonderful and all-pervading, the use of GLOW in Scottish education is. Now Andrew surely should know better than to rely on usage statistics when it comes to GLOW, particularly as he himself admitted (in an interview with Stephen Naysmith in the Glasgow Herald, I seem to recall ? ) that in his initial defence of GLOW after its shortcomings had been pointed out in the press during January 2010, he had been wrong to quote usage stats too much as vindication of his stance (and of the project). I had thought that this might have been the end of the matter, but it appears that Andrew is doing it again. Ewan McIntosh, tweeting from the body of the kirk as it were, quoted Andrew, who apparently dutifully churned out the usual stuff…you know, like 32 Local Authority sign-ups 54,000+ teachers, 700,000+pupils all have accounts. And the latest stats for your delectation, 37% of those who can, do. Log into GLOW each month, that is. Wonderful. Or is it?

Now I might be doing Andrew a disservice, as no one could argue that there have been major improvements to GLOW over the past year or so. The user interface is now a lot more user-friendly, and some of the old glitches and bugs have been ironed out. Greater ability to customise appearance has undoubtedly lead to a heightened sense of ownership – for most who use GLOW regularly. Blogs and wikis might allow a window to the world outside the walled garden that GLOW has been described as. I still think the jury is out though, and the intentions and aspirations of the early planning, phase trials and early adopters have been largely unmet. As yet. Times change and technology advances. The learning landscape is changing and we have to ask the question for the current place and time; is GLOW all it could be? The mantra of LTS is and has always been, give it time. But in the same time that GLOW has had, other technology has come and gone, and needs have changed. We want fast easy communication and conversation, ease of creating, publishing and sharing. Is this a description of GLOW? It is becoming a resource bank. Both nationally procurred and local content, in the form of some 80,000+ GLOW groups (according to Andrew) is now available – to registered users. As Ewan said in a well put tweet, “these are all locked into school communities – what a waste !” Exactly.

But my point is this. These stats don’t tell the full story. In fact, they conveniently hide some major shortcomings. For despite the claim to 32 LA’s signed up to GLOW, not all could be said to be active users to any great degree. Yes, there are pockets of use in schools, but it can hardly be said to be nationwide when great swathes of the country are just not engaging. This is what I said back in January last year in TESS. How many of the 54,000+ teacher accounts are regularly used, other than to read notices or access email, this being the route down which some LA’s have gone, I suspect, in order to compel teachers to log in, thereby increasing usage figures and justify the expense of GLOW to elected members, when perfectly good email and school websites existed before to facilitate just these functions, quicker, easier, and ultimately cheaper. And for that matter, just how many MSP’s have looked beyond the LTS stats and considered just how much value for money GLOW really is in these hard pressed times? Still on stats, how many pupil log-ons are in clusters, and how many are outside of school hours? How many GLOW groups have more than three or four active members posting comment or content?
How is usage logged in LA’s in terms of regular users (and indeed, how do we define a regular user) ? How many of the 80,000 GLOW groups are active or dormant, measured by weekly traffic or activity?

These are the statistics we really need to track performance and appraise management effectiveness of this project. Statistics are something I might have expected from the previous incumbent, but not from Andrew, who appeared to have had some sort of epiphany last year, at least, in terms of statistical justification syndrome. We were promised more meaningful data, drilling down into usage, allowing more accurate judgements of effectiveness and value for money to be drawn and debated. And how much will the real reductions in computer hardware in LA’s like Highland and South Lanarkshire impact upon potential use of GLOW?  Because this is needed, in times when we are making support teachers and classroom assistants redundant, reducing services to disabled children which directly affect their ability to access the curriculum, and freezing teachers’ pay.

And we’re still waiting…

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

This is a long post – you have been warned !!

Having been using GLOW in some form or other for over a year now and for seven months in teaching and learning with my classes I felt that it was time to reflect a little on where we might be going with it, and perhaps more importantly, the form this direction might or should take.

Since January, I’ve been doing some work under the ‘sponsorship’ of the GTCS teacher researcher programme. Using the title of ‘Will the lights stay on?-embedding ICT into secondary school subject curricula’  I have been researching the recent history of ICT-initiatives such as GLOW in schools and the reasons behind the general failure of these initiatives to produce the transformative effect on teaching and learning expected by educational policy-makers and governments. It is certainly a controversial subject, but fascinating and depressing at the same time particularly when examining the plethora of literature wearing the ‘hats’ of both a classroom teacher and a researcher. Perhaps one of the main barriers to the more widespread adoption of ICT into teaching and learning, according to teachers anyway, is the that there is not enough time scheduled or planned for them to really get to grips with using which ever particular system or platform is being introduced, and that training is rushed and too technology focused rather than on pedagogy. There are of course many other factors to consider in winning the hearts and minds of teachers and getting them to engage with ICT and in this case, with GLOW.

This opens up a wider debate on just how to do this. Is the fact that well-planned use of ICT will raise attainment  enough to convince teachers? or does it come down to having the investment in time and in the training? We now have GLOW mentors in most schools who have been trained on how to use GLOW itself, but are they being trained in how to use GLOW to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. In other words, is their training technologically or pedagogically focused? because whatever it is will trickle down through a school as the mentors do their work with staff. Now that the mentors have been trained would each local authority, rather than having expensive central GLOW teams be better off investing the cost of these teams in paying for time in individual schools to work on how they want GLOW to be used in their particular and sometimes unique circumstances. Andrew Brown has blogged recently about this choice over the direction in which GLOW evolves in schools and nationally. Here is a link to his post on this.. 


Do we really need centrally-produced GLOW pages where the text sings and dances it’s way across the page in twenty different colours and languages? Will the corporate banner headings and specialised design features really persuade more teachers of the benefits of using GLOW? Or will it be the quality of the materials and debate within different GLOW groups which makes them indispensable teaching and learning tools in the classroom and beyond for pupils and teachers? Will the possibility of top-down management structures being imposed by local authority GLOW teams be a disincentive to teachers with vision, drive and a willingness to make GLOW and ICT work for their pupils in their schools and classrooms? I’m certainly on record as having warned against this particular developmental pathway, and indeed, my authority GLOW team used my thoughts on top-down management of GLOW as a quote in their presentation at the recent SLC curriculum conference for head-teachers. My experiences and observations during a recent study visit to Finland convinced me that this centralised control is unhealthy and unnecessary.

Is it now time to allow GLOW to develop organically, and in different directions according to an individual school’s particular identified needs and for schools to ask for help from other schools using GLOW effectively in their classrooms without the heavy hand of centralised control acting as ‘big brother’ on this exchange of ideas ? Is an army of ‘development officers’ in each authority across the country servicing a need or could it actually become an unnecessary drain on resources which could be better used by individual schools to develop their own GLOW direction and buy in their own training from outwith their own authority where they choose to…?   Real creative subversion (a term of which I am very, very fond) in action…but real leadership  with a vision for outcomes is needed in every individual school if this approach is to succeed

The answers to these questions will probably evolve as the months go by, particularly in the ‘early-adopter’ authorities who by now have much useful experience in setting up and using GLOW. My own research (or at least the 1st phase of it) will be published shortly and the project is continuing through to June 2009 to allow me to collect longer-term data on pupil attainment to standard grade through using GLOW/ICT. I will be presenting my findings so far at a national conference in the autumn later this year, showing how I have measured significant attainment gains achieved by pupils using GLOW. But will raising attainment alone be enough to drive forward wider use of GLOW/ICT ? Probably not. I suspect that this task will be a long drawn out affair indeed. But I for one am convinced that if we stick with it, if we keep the faith, GLOW will change the face of Scottish education irreversibly, and for the better.

April 2014
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