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Archive for December 2009

Last week at the annual Scottish educational research association conference, I gave a short presentation during the GTCS-sponsored practitioner researcher session. This gave me an opportunity to discuss the findings of the two year (give or take a couple of months !) study into using ICT delivered through GLOW, to raise attainment.

I’ve summarised the main points in this post. The same data analysis was used as with the initial part of the study published last year and showed an increase in the attainment from the 14% found at the end of the first phase to just over 20% across the whole standard grade course. This is a fairly substantial gain and one which shows just how effective using ICT can be if combined with innovative and well thought out pedagogical approaches.

The study also involved extensive classroom coding of activity. This focussed attention on pupil time on task as well as the interactions between teacher/pupil and pupil/pupil, and demonstrated the ability of ICT to engage and motivate pupils very effectively, again, when combined with appropriate and stimulating pedagogy.

I’ve loaded the presentation into SlideShare…


My notes and comments are below in the summary, together with some of my thoughts. My thanks to the GTCS and to SERA for the support and advice with this work. Of course, this presentation was offered to LTS for inclusion in the Scottish Learning Festival, but strangely, they declined it…I wonder why :-/ 

Maybe the total lack of serious GLOW evaluation and impact assessment on their part was just too big a cross to bare, but then again, maybe SERA was much more suitable for this type of substantive and thoroughly researched work. A perusal of the literature on education and ICT initiatives like the one I carried out last year points very clearly to the reasons why such initiatives struggle to make a serious impact on classroom practice. Such a review appears, in my opinion anyway, to have played little or no part in informing previous project management of GLOW.

I have worked with GLOW for over two years now in the classroom day in day out. I’ve evaluated all parts of it, used it with different age groups in both primary and secondary settings. Run every test and trial possible, tried to work around problems and gremlins. Creatively subverted it in many ways, and been a passionate advocate of it’s potential. So it’s with somewhat of a heavy heart that I now have to say that after all of this, it’s probably not going any further in it’s currrent unwieldy and clunky format.  Issues and problems raised quietly and constructively over this time have been brushed aside in the hype and spin and the race for the full 32 sign-up. This cannot be allowed to continue. I said as much in the recent MJ online ‘Innovators’ interview article. Now is the time for some strong leadership if this project is not to become litttle more than an irrelevance to most Scottish teachers.

I welcome the appointment of Andrew Brown to head up the next phase of GLOW for LTS. I hope he can bring some much needed focus to this important and ground breaking national initiative, together with an intuitive feel for how learning can be enhanced by IT which has perhaps been lacking at this level thus far. Recently, I asked Andrew on Twitter to publish the quality indicators and criteria by which LTS measure the impact and success of GLOW. Lets hope his much vaunted ‘democratisation’ of GLOW is more than just window dressing and becomes an integral and substantive feature of further work. Until then, and until such rigorous impact assessment and evaluation has taken place, I’m calling for a moratorium on any further spending on developing GLOW. We’ve had long enough – the basics need to be right before any more development, and this includes investigation into the reasons behind the lack of take up and substantive use by many schools and indeed, local authorities across Scotland.



 Conference abstract (revised handout)


This seminar will present the results of a year-long classroom based research study into using ICT facilitated via GLOW to raise attainment. The evidence of substantial increases in exam performance will be presented first, and it will then be shown how GLOW has been used in the science classroom to deliver the four capacities of a Curriculum for Excellence within the existing standard grade curriculum. These results depend not simply on the use of technology but on the particular pedagogic design introduced. Classroom coding measures of the improved process (as opposed to the final exam results) were used to measure these pedagogic changes. The implications on teachers’ workload, measured through comparative work diaries will also be considered. Conclusions on the possible longer term impact on the way students develop enhanced thinking skills, social skills, critical analysis and problem-solving through the use of self-paced and peer-assisted learning facilitated by changed classroom pedagogies (with particular emphasis on the shift from teaching towards an approach more centered on learning) will then be offered for discussion, together with thoughts for the future direction of the GLOW project in Scotland.




 Summary of main points from presentation


Attainment was ahead of the rest of the pupil cohort by 20.4 % over the standard grade course (this had improved from the shorter term study presented last year which showed a 14% difference). The p-values of less then 0.05 show that this is statistically highly significant and likely to be as a result of the intervention (GLOW/ICT) 


  • Time on task (Pupils) was significantly more in a GLOW class than in both non-GLOW classes with the teacher-researcher, and colleague (p-Values indicate statistical significance). 



  • Pupil-Pupil time on task was increased in GLOW lessons when compared to non-GLOW classes (p-Values indicate statistical significance). 


  • No difference in the teacher-pupil time on task was found to be statistically significant 



  • Benefits come at a cost. Huge increase in teacher planning workload found, as well as continued unreliability of system (GLOW not infrastructure). Very often, it just does not work! e.g. documents will not load or save, filter settings will not change. Whilst there have undoubtedly been success stories (GLOW Meet being one of them ) we are too far down the road with this project for the gremlins to have remained. Teachers need to know that when they try to use it, GLOW will work. 


  • Poor project management has glossed over issues of reliability and funding in the race to sign up the holy grail of the full 32 LA’s. Too much hype and spin and not enough management. A simple SWOT analysis would have highlighted issues of sharing resources and quality assurance. More experienced classroom practitioners with actual day to day experience in using GLOW regularly as a part of planned learning and teaching are needed to bring credibility (in the eyes of teachers in schools) to the national team. 



  • Issues surround funding. LA’s simply don’t have the money to fund the necessary training. Teachers need time to become confident in the use of GLOW and this needs investment, which has not been forthcoming. The cascade model fails because the cascade of skills is not followed with the necessary funding to consolidate and build on the training gains. LA teams have performed miracles in bringing GLOW thus far. They deserve more support and ring-fenced funding from national government. 


  • Assumptions made about the digital native kids being at home with the GLOW technology are wide of the mark…GLOW is not BEBO. It’s not intuitive or user-friendly. Kids won’t and don’t use it in the same way and with the same familiarity. 



  • National moratorium needed on any further development until proper evaluation and impact assessment has taken place. Far too much taxpayer’s money has been spent without proper cost-benefit analysis. Sound project management could have had this built in to the first two years planning.  

It’s nice to be able to write about a GLOW success story….

Our school had it’s rather belated opening ceremony today. Invited guests and civic dignitaries watched many of our students performing in a celebration of the life of the school. The ‘street’ area is too small to assemble the whole school so we had to find another way of involving as many of the staff and students as possible…and so enter GLOW.

I’ve always been somewhat of a fan of GLOW Meet. I use it in different way perhaps than originally intended, for peer assisted working (creative subversion at work I suppose) as I’ve often documented on this blog, but today, we used it to stream sound and video from the event into most of the classrooms in the school. With excellent technical support from the South lanarkshire GLOW team, who worked incredibly hard to ensure that school staff did not encounter any problems during the event (big thanks to Jim, Margaret and their team for helping to make everything run so smoothly🙂 ) everything worked well and GLOW Meet performed brilliantly without a hitch, allowing 800 people who would have not been able to see the events to become involved.

A great example of how technology such as GLOW can enhance the wider school experience of our staff and young people…

December 2009
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