Adventures in E-Learning

Here’s a confession. I quite like Glow. There. I’ve said it. It’s blisteringly counterintuitive, fairly unreliable and trying to convince my colleagues for the past three years that e-learning is, perhaps, something they might want to try on such a system has been a challenge. So what do I like? I like the functionality – blogs, wikis, web-links, documents, discussions, and so on, are all in the same place. I like that it makes the pupils work a little; it’s real life to have to remember a password! And I like the connection to a nation of possibility. It was wonderful to have a web chat with Catherine Forde, after we had read “Fat Boy Swim” for example.

 In fact, I am so happy with a system that can make our Higher Glow group look like this, and which allows for reading reviews that the whole school can access, that I am reluctant to change it. We’ve worked really hard as a school to improve the online literacy of our pupils, and have put plentiful energy into populating our Glow groups and blogs for S1 and S2. I firmly believe that e-learning improves the experience and literacy of the pupil. It keeps them organised, they can locate all the wee sheets they were given by their teachers, they can ask questions (some in the small hours), they can collaborate on essays, blog and, in the best cases, it improves the self efficacy of pupils, it sharpens their literacy and places them firmly at the heart of their learning.

 However, change we must. New Glow (Glow 2? Glow as well? Glow again, but this time it’s better? Glow: The Return?) is on some horizon and we may very well buy into it. But there is another way. Recently my S4 English class (never ones to mince their words) told me that they simply found Glow too hard. They couldn’t find their way around it. After some incredulity from me, I began to think.

One of the most powerful tools for reflection for me is to remember what it was like when I did something for the first few times. Sure enough, Glow was tough to get around – and I consider myself pretty ICT literate. What must it be like for these kids? We assume that all students are great at getting around the internet. I’m not sure that’s true – they can get around Facebook and Twitter, can play the games they are interested in, but e-learning must be taught to them and must be user friendly. Running close to exams, I decided I would alter my practices, just for them. How’s that for meeting the needs of the child?

 As luck would have it, this change coincided with Martyn Call (maths teacher, extraordinaire, Pedagoo-er, old buddy and collaborator) telling me of his experiments with Edmodo – an American based e-learning site. It seemed to him to be a vastly more intuitive platform which, although lacking in some of the functionality of Glow, was secure, allowed documents to be uploaded, allowed for e-portfolios and discussion between students and teachers. After seeing the kit for myself at the inaugural Beer Meet Borders, I decided to give it a go.

 Edomdo looks like Facebook – similar colouring, fonts, and layout. That’s appealing to a class of kids who carry out a large amount of their social life on that platform and the class took to it immediately. Comforted by the familiarity, they immediately started playing – changing profile pictures, posting, looking at resources. All good. They loved that when they posted, others got email alerts. I like that idea too – it might help with homework completion. It was fun.

 However, there are more complex reasons for preferring Edmodo. Glow was set up from a teacher’s (or more accurately a regional) point of view. Therefore the hierarchies of Glow favour the school, the subject, the year group. Edmodo sees learning as a student sees it. The student is top in the hierarchy. When they log on, they are the first page they see – not the page of a school, or a subject. The subjects are all listed down the left hand side. The resources are all listed down the right hand side. The pupil’s discussions, tasks, alerts, quizzes are all in the centre. Edmodo recognises what Glow failed to do. The pupil, not the teacher is at the heart of education. And surely, that’s a powerful illustration of how we should all see schools?

 I don’t know whether we’ll use Edmodo as a whole school resource. I’ve begun to experiment with Twitter with my senior class and, perhaps, one size won’t ever be able to fit all. One thing is for sure. I am watching closely as Glow trundles forward and, if it doesn’t put the child right at the heart of e-learning and is straightforward to use, I hope we’ll have the courage to do what is right for our pupils.

10 thoughts on “Adventures in E-Learning

  1. Philippa Cochrane

    Well said Judith! Particularly putting pupils at the centre – but to take it further, I would hope that the new version of Glow would also enable pupils to intuitively make the cross-curricular links across their own learning and be able to organise their page accordingly.

  2. Judith Weston Post author

    The pupil at the centre indeed, Philippa. We’ve been wrestling with this concept in school for the past year with e-portfolios and haven’t really got very far. I’d love to hear if anyone has some great ideas on how to evidence those cross-curricular links through e-learning.

    1. Martyn Call

      In Edmodo pupils are able to ‘tag’ their posts. I’ve been getting my S3 Maths and Physics classes to tag all their posts (examples: numeracy, literacy, PLP, Factorising). So come the end of S3 when pupils need to build a profile of work, theoretically all they need to go is choose the appropriate tags and voila – profile!

      As we know, theory is different from practice, but it seems one of the easier options I’ve thought about. SMT are still keen on wiki spaces – which I love, but don’t think they fit the bill for profile building. In a years time I’d like to see my pupils using ’emerging’ technology, not something 5yrs old and which requires a lot more admin to choose best pieces. (same prob with Glow?).

  3. john sexton

    Thanks Judith. Like you I have been doing a little experimenting with different models of using ICT in the classroom. I do like the feel of Edmodo and surprisingly for a non-facebook user like me it does feel kinda intuitive. I really struggled in my few attempts at using facebook.
    The pupil at the centre is a must. I’ve started to read “Rewired- Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn” by Larry D Rosen. A good read on how this generation of young learners view and use technology. Education and education systems are so slow to adapt/change. Education systems/curriculums/infrastructure are being left so far behind as we debate the ins & outs of what’s good to use. Can I suggest we leave that decision to the kids for the one thing that will be true for whatever replaces glow: if the kids don’t like it or see its value they won’t use it.

  4. Lynne

    I am now following your example and trying edmodo out with a few classes – don’t want to invest anymore time in Glow till we know what’s happening!
    Interestingly teachers who have run a mile from Glow seem interested in trying edmodo, I wonder if Glow has such a bad rep now that it may never recover!!

    As I’ve mentioned on the call for evidence forum IT needs more investment. Judith knows that at our establishment at present we can’t even get onto SQA, BBC websites or run content from LTS due to the old version of IE and ancient operating system. An easy fix you’d think but not in the world of school IT.

  5. Lisa Lamont

    Just been for a look at Edmodo. I think I’ll definitely be trying that out with some classes – thanks for the tip, Judith.
    I’ve given up on glow e-portfolios – they’re far too cumbersome! I think the pupils are too used to much more user-friendly platforms. As a result, rather than enjoying the novelty of using e-portfolios they get turned off by the time it takes to find their way in through glow.

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