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#EducScotICT – Using new technologies to demonstrate / reflect on learning
October 19, 2011

Cross-posted from Mrs Wex’s blog

This week I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend and present at the ICT Summit held at the Stirling Management Centre. The summit was held to discuss the 5 objectives set by Michael Russell, MSP when he made the announcement about the future of glow.

The 5 objectives were

1) To change the culture of the use of ICT

2) To improve confidence in the use of ICT for learners, teachers, school leaders and parents

3) To promote new behaviours for teaching

4) To deepen parental engagement

5) To strengthen position on hardware and associated infrastructure

Richard Nealsson gives a very good overview of the whole event in his blog post.

I was asked to present on the 3rd Objective – To promote new behaviours for teaching.  Below is the transcript of my presentation and the full length version of the video I showed.

Using new technologies to demonstrate / reflect on learning

We have been using Glow for just over a year.  It has totally transformed teaching and learning in my classroom.  It has enabled me to embed ICT throughout all areas of the curriculum and is not seen as a separate add on subject.

Now when planning work instead of thinking, what piece of written work or worksheet can I use to evidence children’s learning and understanding, I think what piece of technology or web tool can I use.

Glow has given us the space to house all our digital evidence as most of the tools we use can be embedded either into a glow group or a glow blog.  Over the past year we have been developing our use of glow blogs.

Each pupil has their own individual eportfolio which can be used as a learning journal.  In these eportfolios they can embed videos, slideshows and other web tools as evidence of their learning.  They can also use it as a place to reflect on their learning and share wider achievements.

This year we have also started a class blog in order to share our learning with parents and other schools.  So far we have had over 300 visits to our site and comments from as far away as Florida.  The pupils are highly motivated by these comments.  You can visit our blog by googling Wellwood Primary Blog.

These (see photo below) are just a few of the web tools we have used this year.  For example we created vokis, which are animated avatars, to record our burns poems.  We used I can animate to create digital still animations for our Myths and Legends topic.

The level of writing within the class is still high as although the final outcome of these activities is a digital one, often they require researching or script writing.  There are still a very large percentage of teaching staff who don’t realise all these resources are available and often free to use.  Levels of pupil engagement and their ability to work cooperatively have greatly improved.

We’ve achieved a lot in a year but we only have a ratio of 2 pupils to 1 computer, imagine what we could achieve with 1:1.

ICT in Scottish Education
October 19, 2011

Cross-posted from nealsson.net

Earlier this week the Scottish Government hosted a seminar on ICT in Scottish Education at the Stirling Management Centre. The initiative was launched by Mike Russell a few weeks ago and a wiki was set up to allow people – teachers, suppliers, parents and anyone with a voice to be heard (with suitable access to the means) – to share thoughts, ideas and issues before the event itself.

Having contributed to the wiki, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend in person and joined in the questioning, the round table discussions and networking that took place before and after the event. There was a healthy engagement with a wider group of participants who watched the event as it was streamed on the Education Scotland website and joined in the twitter backchannel.

The event was opened by Trudi Sharp, Deputy Director, Learning: Strategy and Leadership at The Scottish Government who has earned herself a reputation for an intelligent and proactive, yet listening style amongst those involved in the development of GLOW. A few words from Bill Maxwell, transitional Chief Executive of Education Scotland, and the Secretary of State for Education, Mike Russell, opened the seminar with an address from Dunoon. Mike took questions from the floor, the first of which was from Nick Hood (who I saw present at the SLF) calling for the GLOW API to be made available for developers, whether teachers or commercial organisations, to provide content and facilities using the GLOW login so as to give users a more seamless experience.

The first of several extraordinarily confident and articulate pupils from Stirling High then took on the role of introducing (and politely policing) the three-minute presentations that acted as stimulus for the round table discussions on the five objectives for the summit.

Objective 1 – changing the culture of the use of ICT

Ian Stuart (@islayian) and Bruce Robertson (@brucerobertson7) spoke about the not paperless, but less paper use of ICT in Islay High School and the urgent need for ICT to be extensively used in education, respectively: this prompted a lively debate at the tables around the room as the first round-table discussions got under way. Each table had a facilitator whose role was to ensure all voices were heard, prompting along the lines of, “having heard the presentations and read the wiki contributions…”, and who this evening will be collating all of the key points brought out at their tables. The point was made at our table that there is an immediate need to break the corporate inertia that is seen as being one of the major obstacles to the adoption of technology in teaching and learning. The not unrelated issue of a culture of mistrust of teachers was also raised.

Objective 2 – Improving Confidence

Sophie, from Stirling High, introduced the next objective by observing that the ability to share information for confidence and competence is easily facilitated through channels like Facebook: she cited her own experience in this regard before introducing David Noble (@parslad) of Hillside School and chair of ACTS who tackled the Donaldson review. David was followed by Steven Grier of Microsoft who addressed digital literacy for teachers. At our table discussion, mention was made of Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw)’s EdD thesis on the (hackneyed?) terms “digital literacy”, as compared (confused?) with “media literacy” and the variants. Throughout the day, more than once was it mentioned that there is an element of the converted talking to the converted (“the twitterati”) in the afternoon’s discussions: how is it that we reach and engage with the majority of those involved in education who are not (hyper)active in new media?

Objective 3 – Promoting New Behaviours

After a call for more self-directed learning from the Stirling High senior introducing objective 3, Gillian Penny (@gillpenny) and Olivia Wexelstein (@owexelstein) presented for the next objective: Olivia’s included a short video clip of her class showcasing what’s possible with often freely available tools for pupil engagement using new media. One young man’s comment in this struck a chord with me – “we like having a choice about how we present”.

Objective 4 – Parental Engagement

Tony Rafferty’s presentation for the parents was unfortunate, in my view. It seems that there’s a lot of work to be done in order to engage parents – see my previous post – and Tony’s presentation did nothing to change this view. The round table discussion seemed to suggest that channels of communication need to be addressed at the school level first – one contributor said that his school is supposed to be a “pilot” school for GLOW yet has a most appallingly bad website and no serious attempt at reaching parents other than a two-or-three times a year paper newsletter, distributed via the pupils, which never gets home.

Objective 5 – Hardware and Infrastructure

The final objective was introduced by a confident young man who broke the no-jokes rule (“Wind farms? Big Fan”) before introducing a powerful presentation by Kate Farrell (@digitalkatie) on the irony (outrage?) that she can buy a £6500 special AAC device but not ten iPads: “this is not a luxury item!”. The iPads can do all and more that the single-function specialist device can do. Something wrong here. The other presentation was a very long three-minute sales pitch from Google.

What’s next?

There are so many things to be addressed from the ongoing debate, and in wrapping up the seminar, Trudi called for further engagement and contribution from all concerned. I urge all involved in education to do so, in order to make sure that our Government do the right things to build the best education system – our children, our economy, and our society deserve and demand it.

My calls

  • An open API to allow providers to build seamless and beautiful features and content
  • The core of GLOW to be freely available to all involved in education (not just state schools)
  • Break down the corporate stranglehold on education ICT services
  • Clarity of boundaries, limits and expectations in the GTCS code of professional conduct
  • Schools to really begin providing useful information to parents, opening up channels of engagement
  • Free up the ability to share, showcase, observe and spread good teaching practice (not just in ICT)
  • Intelligent procurement policy
  • Maintain and promote the continued discussion and development of education at all levels

I would go a little further and suggest that education should be removed from Local Authority control, be centrally directed and locally disbursed in accordance with national objectives.

#EduScotICT – moving forward together
October 18, 2011

Cross-posted from #learnerham

Yesterday’s ICT Summit, held at the Stirling Management Centre, has brought me out of my blogging hibernation. I started this blog to help me reflect. The reason for my lack of posts here has more to do with the arrival of my beautiful daughter than anything else; my heed is bursting and my now 10 month old daughter has learned to go to sleep so here goes my thoughts on what needs to happen next:

The wiki and twitter feed have been great places for debate and ideas, although the wiki ended up a little too unorganised for my brain to cope with. Neil Winton talked passionately and with authority on his blog about the rare opportunity this consultation (and I do think it is a genuine consultation) gives us. I agree with him. The rub for me is the potential for the opportunity to be wasted. We need to grab this opportunity with both hands and come out the other side with a clear mandate for what needs to be change.

I’m worried that might not happen.

I’m a positive person, always looking for the solution and try to not get bogged down by the problem, but I worry that there are too many views surrounding the future of Glow and ICT in schools and we will get lost in the argument.

Let’s look to the future. It genuinely saddens me to constantly read about ‘Glow’s failings’. (i’ve just deleted a whole paragraph as Jim Buchan captured many of my thoughts much better than I had been able to on his blog today).

One example of a question that has been asked on the wiki:

Why do I use Glow groups instead of Google docs to collate pupil work?

This simple answer: I started using Glow before I knew what a Google doc was. I knew about Glow because it was a National Initiative. I cannot easily give my pupils access to Google accounts. They forget the passwords and I have no way of resetting them. Google docs is blocked in my LA.

Moving forward: I need the single sign on to continue. I don’t have to reset S1 pupil passwords anymore because they log on so often (not just in my class and also at home) that they remember what their password is. The only reason pupils forget their username and password is when they go weeks and months without a reason to use them. I would be delighted to see my pupils log into Glow 2 and be shibbolised to a Google doc, or Microsoft Windows Live, or iCloud account. I can’t do that just now.

STOP. I am dirtying the waters again. Let me try, as briefly as possible to put down what I think needs to happen.

1 We are putting the cart before the horse. We need bandwidth and a joined up hardware solution before we get to the nitty gritty. Our young people deserve every opportunity available to them. I believe that giving them more access to the Internet is a good thing. We cannot do that without bandwidth. I know I am simplifying this, but in my head the SG give money to Education Scotland to provide the Interconnect to LA’s. Too much of the Interconnect is syphoned by LA’s, not enough of it is given so schools. This needs to change.

2 Many of our young people have a solution in their Smart Phones and tablet devices. We actively stop them from using them in school. This needs to change too.

3 We need a National plan to give access to those pupils and families who do not have access to the Internet at home. Programs like the £95 computer is a start but the monthly cost of broadband is still prohibitive for too many.

4 We need to retain the Single Sign On. This is crucial. I used wikis and blogs in my classroom BG (before Glow), but the fact that pupils needed to sign up themselves and often forgot their usernames and passwords always got in the way.

5 We need a core set of tools. We also need to enable educators and learners to add their own tools (Nick Hood’s question about a Glow API was a good one and would help here). The biggest negative from today’s event was that it came from a group of like minded people who knew what an API was. If we are going to increase the confidence of every teacher to use technology for the benefit of learning then we need to say here is a core group of online things that might help you. Too much choice, with no guidance or support is the last thing that is going to improve confidence.

6 We need strong leadership from our Head Teachers. They need to support all staff to embrace technology. They need to have their hands untied from the red tape that dominates the barriers we face in open software and web filtering.

7 We can no longer see ICT as an optional extra. It is a core part of the curriculum, not an add on. It is mentioned explicitly in the SFR. We can no longer shy away from the teacher who says ‘I don’t do technology’. We don’t allow our teachers to not do Health and Wellbeing, or AifL.

8 We need to stop using the analogy that every teacher can use the Internet in their personal life; some cannot. We need to support them, show them what they are missing out on and how their young people are suffering as a result. A basic level of ICT knowledge isn’t acceptable either. We need to lift our expectations, our young people deserve more.

9 2012 is not that far away. We need to move forward, together, now.

10 We need to remember why we are doing this: to improve opportunities for all learners, to enhance learning and teaching. We have limited time, a finite budget and a huge opportunity to put in place a solution that works for every learner, educator, parent, business and granny.

And that was me being brief? This is difficult, but so so important. Whatever happens, for the sake of education in Scotland, we need to move forward together.

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