Author Archives: rnealsson

ICT in Scottish Education

Cross-posted from

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.