Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog

Posts Tagged ‘central control

Answer – when it’s only a template, or so it seems…An interesting debate going on over on the GLOW Scotland blog about local authority approaches to rolling out GLOW. It appears I’ve ruffled a few Aberdonian feathers with my opinions on what I perceive to be a perhaps a more centralised way of doing things.

http://ltsblogs.org.uk/glowscotland/2008/10/03/glow-for-aberdeen-city-probationers/

As mentors rush to defend their ‘one size fits all’ template central policy I can’t help wondering if there might be a little element of orchestration going on here…the comments from one blogger in particular give me cause for not a little concern…

One huge benefit to having the general layout created by the central ICT team is that to some extent all schools will have the same feel which makes it so much easier to navigate round each others sites

This screams out ‘corporate branding’ to me which is something I had hoped GLOW would manage to avoid – a LA deciding on a common look or structure rather than allowing individual looks and approaches to develop.

Of course this again opens up the debate on the function and even desirability of ‘central’ teams’. Whilst there is, I would argue, a place for an advisory service in LA’s who are available to help and assist where necessary and at the request of establishments (and my own LA is an excellent example of how this can work really well to the advantage of everyone) I am growing more and more concerned that GLOW will become just another branded council project, imposed from the centre rather than something to be adopted by teachers to enhance the learning experience available to our students and staff – at least, this is how teachers I’ve spoken too want GLOW to work. A top-down centrally managed project just adds to the feeling of innovation overload so often apparent in schools and will have the real danger of stifling GLOW before its really had a chance to establish itself. The East Lothian model of ‘opt in’ seems to me to tick all the boxes of a bottom-up supported roll-out with the leadership provided by teachers and pupils rather than a management-oriented system. Of course, this does result in a more gradual take-up rate but I think our experience in South Lanarkshire with just this approach has shown that it’s a robust model which results in continued and sustained use of GLOW by schools and their teachers as well as by other local authority mediated groups as well as a confidence to try out different ideas, templates and structures safe in the knowledge that support and encouragement is unobtrusive but only a phone call away. I’m sure East Lothian will find that this way works to their advantage as well…

So what’s the best way… only time will tell on this one of course. But the benefits that GLOW can bring to teaching and learning when placed in the freed-up hands of classroom teachers are too precious to be buried in the one size fits all blandness which is sometimes the result of LA corporate identity branding. Professor Debra Myhill’s idea of ‘creative subversion’ keeps coming back to my mind here. It was certainly a big factor in my own development of GLOW use and continues, with the enthusiastic support of my own LA advisory GLOW team, to be my preferred methodology.

To quote (and paraphrase) Stephen Heppell  we are witnessing  the death of education, but the dawn of learning. This has to include an absolute shift away from centralisation towards learner-centred, community collaboration and the move from delivered wisdom towards user-generated content.

I wish Aberdeen teachers well with their own GLOW roll-out. I also wish that they are allowed to be as creative and subversive as they want to be in this. The future of GLOW depends upon just this, and the future of our  young people’s learning is too important than for us to demand anything less…

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.. 

http://www.whereisab.co.uk/blog/?p=612

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.


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