Author Archives: Alan Hamilton

A cloudy issue – help gratefully received⤴

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Cross posted on pedagoo.org

Like many schools, mine is looking at deploying WiFi and encouraging the number of pupils bringing in their own devices (BYOD) to enhance learning.  A number of hotspots will be set up around the school.  Learners will register their device and connect to the wireless network, but will not be able to access the school network.  This makes sense to me, as the costs and complexity involved makes the set up too difficult to manage.  Learners will, however, need to access documents and there needs to be an easy system in place for teachers and learners to share resources.

We currently use Bloxx software on the hard wired network and will deploy a separate wireless installation on the new network.  Hopefully the wireless policy will be ‘liveral’, to borrow a phrase from the ICT in Education Excellence Group.

But.  I am confused and need your help!

The obvious solution is to use websites such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft Sky Drive.  They are easy to use, pupils are already familiar with them and they are free.  Before I can ask for these websites to be unblocked, I need to understand what information we can store using them, and what kind of information is not allowed.

It is clear that confidential pupil information such as PPRs and content from SEEMIS such as pupil addresses, medical information, progress reports and attendance statistics cannot be stored on the cloud.  I say clear, but only if you understand the confusion that is the Data Protection Act.  The Act states that information held must be secure and not transferred outside the European Economic Area (EEA), or the provider must have signed up to the Safe Harbor Agreement.  Companies such as Edmodo, Google Drive and Dropbox host data outside of the EU, but have signed up to the Safe Harbour Agreement.  Corporate IT often state these issues when declining requests to make these sites available but is this a red herring?  Does it depend on what is meant by confidential information? I assume that class notes, lesson plans, learning intentions, homework, weblinks and quizzes do not come under the requirements of the data protection act?

Any advice would be gratefully received.  Consider if you would the following two scenarios:

If anyone can help me see through the cloud I would be very grateful.  All I want to do is improve how I teach!

Personalisation and Choice #gooscot⤴

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Personalisation and choice is a fundamental principle of our Curriculum.  Allowing teachers and learners to access the many online available tools goes a long way to make these principles possible.  Young people live their lives online.  Using easy to use tools and websites.  We try our best to motivate and engage them in school whilst jumping through unnecessary hoops.  More and more I find myself saying ‘you’ll need to wait to you get home to access this’ or ‘does that phone in your pocket just make calls?’

Saturday’s #gooscot event has re-energised the debate surrounding LA filtering.  As far as I can see, there are 4 reasons why a website might be filtered in school:

  1. It is offensive and/or age restricted (pornography, drugs, gambling, suicide videos)
  2. It is not offensive, but there is no perceived educational argument for unblocking (often decided by non-educationalists)
  3. It uses too much bandwidth
  4. It is counter to policy concerning security of information

Starting with point 1, my own view is that school filtering should mirror parental control filtering.  And that schools should do more to raise awareness to parents of the filtering available for home computers and student phones.  The Internet, just like the real world, is a place with opportunities, excitement, challenges and dangers.  I can still remember Stranger Danger (and the Green Cross Code man, just about).  I grew up knowing how to cross the road safely, when it was safe to do so and when it wasn’t.  Would I have gotten as much out of school if I was never allowed to attend school trips as they would mean I had to cross a road?

Point 2 is a misnomer for me.  If a website doesn’t contravine point 1, and is open on a learners phone or home computer (open as in I would be happy for my daughter to see it), it should be open in school.  Schools do a good job in raising awareness of the dangers of the Internet, but demonising websites like YouTube doesn’t make our job any easier.

The bandwidth argument’s a bitch.  I believe it is the biggest block to a truly open online presence in school.  The stark reality is too many schools do not get the bandwidth they deserve (partly due to national funding, but local priorities also hinder progress).  I want to see my learners use every tool at their disposal, but my computers would fall over tomorrow if I got my wish.

[UPDATE: Neil Winton needs your help, please answer the Great School Debate Survey if you can/if your LA filtering allows]

That said, there are still many site that I could be utilising in the short term.  A straw poll with my new S3s show that 38% have Samsung Internet enabled phones, 18% of them have iPhones, 13% have Blackberries and the rest (bar 1) have phones with Internet access.  I will encourage them to use these devices more and more next session, but they should be using them because they chose to, not because the alternative is so dire and slow.

Try as I might, I don’t understand the security of information argument.  I am not allowed to access Google Docs/Drive or Dropbox in school because ‘I could use it to hold confidential pupil information’.  I could, but I wouldn’t.  I want to use it because it’s the easiest way for me to access, in school, the PowerPoint that I’m still writing at 11 o’clock on a Sunday night.  I instead email it to myself (using my ess than secure gmail account as the school email servers are always full) or I put it on a pen drive (not a password protected one, it was just the PT’s who got those free from the authority).

The sad fact is my wish list isn’t very long, but would make such a difference to learning.  It would include:

  1. Google Chrome – it’s what all the cool kids are using – look no further than ClassDoJo
  2. Google Docs – or any collaborative Speadsheet website
  3. Google Drive/Dropbox – would make file sharing of Higher Admin folders soooo much easier when pupils are wanting to revise/work from home
  4. Google Youtube – so many brilliant learning opportunities

Is there a pattern emerging here? ;-)  I have left Facebook off my wish list, because I think it is still too big a distraction for staff and pupils, but that might change over time.  I remember just a few years back the battles I had with classes who just wanted to play on the Internet whenever they got a sniff of going near a computer, I now can’t remember the last time the dreaded ‘free time’ request was mentioned in my class room.  I am fortunate that I can access Twitter and Edmodo in my school.

I should also say that I have a fabulous school technician who unblocks website when we ask for them (with the exception of the above list, as they are blocked at LA level).  Although I still think she has better things to do than have to unblock individual websites when I want my classes to use ebay as part of an enterprise topic, or car websites as part of a research task.

I have left my most important argument to last.  Personalisation and choice means using different tools for different people, groups and topics.  With the choice we have today, there shouldn’t be a one size fits all model.  I’m depressed by the thought of the powers who be thinking it has to be Google or Microsoft.  Charlie Love has beautifully shown, in Glew, that choice can mean accessing them all and choosing what is right for your learners.

In the last month I have used Glow Forums to enable P7s and S1s to collaborate, Edmodo to get to know my new S3 class, Twitter to communicate with students on exam leave and Facebook to communicate with my S4 class as they begin their Enterprise topic.  Different strokes for different folks.  I will blog about the use of all these sites in detail soon, but it has gone 11.30 and I still haven’t emailed myself the PowerPoint i’m planning to use P1 tomorrow.

#PedagooFriday⤴

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Not quite brave enough to video my #pedagoofriday this week, so thought I would show the fruits of my S1 class’ labour instead.

I blogged about my S1 Enterprise class recently.  After weeks of hard work, pupil-led learning, self-editing and learning curves, this is what my pupils achieved as a final product:

[issuu width=420 height=297 backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120501125110-47b19bdc3ecf4543abb85bc5ebb82223 name=final_magazine username=shsenterprise tag=sexting unit=px v=2]

I stressed all along about the importance of the process rather than just the final product.  They rewarded me with thoughtful planning, team work, helping others, and reflecting on their achievements.  Every one of them was able to tell me about their chosen subject, Sexting.

The end result was so good I thought I’d share.  If anyone wants to give them feedback I will show them next week.

 

 

 

Leave the delays to Scotrail… #CfEontrack⤴

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My S1 Enterprise class is becoming the highlight of my week.  The class comes for a double period of study (one of the changes we brought in as a result of Curriculum for Excellence) and they leave exhausted (them and me!).

I used to see first year for a single period of ICT.  Using the 5-14 guidelines pupils learned how to edit text and sort data.  They worked at computers on their own.  If they were stuck they put their hand up and I told them what to click on.  The room was generally quiet and the pupils were engaged.  Talking was frowned upon and the learning was rote.

I have a confession to make.  We stopped using the 5-14 guidelines a few years ago. Before CfE (there, I said it!).  We gradually made the switch when we realised that we needed to teach young people more than the menu commands in Microsoft Word.  It was refreshing to see that the driving force behind Curriculum for Excellence was “to help every learner develop knowledge, skills and attributes for learning, life and work, which are encapsulated in the four capacities”.  We were onto a winner, vindicated that we had been doing the best for our young people for the previous few sessions.

This ‘new’ style of teaching is hard work.  Enter my CfE classroom on a Tuesday morning and you will see chaos.  There are groups of young people everywhere.  Some are working at a PC, others are planning on the board, some are even holding a meeting with their peers outside the classroom in our flexible learning area.  I’m not always in control and setting the direction of travel.  Pupils have carousel mindmaps scattered over the desks, they are checking each others work, discussing (sometimes arguing!) over who is doing what.  Two of my S1′s stand at the front and ask for silence!  They are the editors of the magazine the class are producing (on the topic of Sexting) and they are not quite sure at what stage everyone is at.  They inform the class that they will shortly be coming round to check who is doing what.  If someone needs help they suggest who they should pair up with.  I sit back and hope they will meet their self imposed draft 1 deadline (they did!).

We hope to have the magazine finished next week.  They have all uploaded their work to their Glow group for peer assessment:

They have kept me updated with their progress in the forum every week:

They are learning new skills all of the time.  They are used to me pointing a camera at them.  They are used to me challenging them.  They have chosen the tasks to complete.  They have demonstrated team work, meeting deadlines, using new software, encouraging others, compromise.  And more.  Their fellow pupils in S2 are doing the same.  They are getting used to the new way of being assessed.  I am getting used to the new way of assessing!  We are learning together, using topics, skills and experiences which we enjoy.  They will continue to enjoy learning as they progress through the school.

If we give them appropriate opportunities to develop at level 3 and 4, then appropriate courses which continue into National 4′s and 5′s, who cares what the exams look like.

We signed up to the experiences and outcomes.  Nobody is arguing that Curriculum for Excellence is not the correct approach.  Nobody is saying that we needed more time to develop courses in S1-S3, but mention qualifications as some colleagues wobble.  Right across Scotland, schools are delivering on the experiences and outcomes.  The draft Nationals (1-5) show the clear progression from the experience and outcome levels.  Internal assessment will be driven to meet the needs of our young people.  This is our opportunity to put learning first.  The exams have driven the learning for too long.  That is why I believe we need to leave the delays to Scotrail, and get on with delivering the track we all set out on together.

Original headline: Leave the delays to Scotrail (If TESS can do it! ;-) )

 

 

 

#EduScotICT – moving forward together⤴

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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.

Back to school⤴

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I’ve neglected this blog for the past 9 months.  Not on purpose:  as part of the Glow team there were other places for me to get my thoughts down – the GlowScotland blog, the Internet Safety blogs that I created and the team forum (a hive of activity for a team who were forever on the move).

Also, on the 9 December my life changed forever (and for the better!) when my lovely wife gave birth to our first daughter.  Olivia Elizabeth is now 6 months old and another reason for my lack of blogging!

The main reason for this post is to signal the end of my secondment.  I can’t believe it’s been a year already but I am back to school tomorrow.  New timetable, new shoes and new challenges – I have seen so much good practice this past year, but now it’s my turn to do right by my learners.  I am really looking forward to being back in the classroom and finally getting the chance to embrace CfE for real, with real learners.

I hope to come back to this blog to self-reflect on the challenges, successes and questions that the experiences and outcomes will through at me, my colleagues and my learners.  I’ve got that Sunday night feeling….!

Glow Refresh and Glow Futur.es⤴

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The Scottish Learning Festival has been and gone.  What a great, busy two days.  Exhausting but great to chat with so many teachers about Glow, what is working, and what needs to change.

The festival this year coincided with the Glow Refresh campaign, where we highlight what changes have taken place within Glow in recent months (more info and some jazzy videos showing what is new can be found here!)

We were also able to talk to lots of people about Glow, gather feedback, demo live and engage in conversations with practitioners from across Scotland.

Ross Watson (my colleague from the national team) held 2 great sessions on the Scottish Government stand talking about what we are doing.

I love engaging with teachers and others around the subject of Glow and the fab examples that I have been able to see as I work with teachers and students from across the country.   I also enjoy having conversations on the future of Glow and with people who are frustrated by it.

Dave Terron summed up the views of many on his blog this morning.  Click here to read his post and my reply.  John Sexton makes some good points re creative uses of technology and Glow on his blog.

I would urge ALL Glow users, in fact, all Scottish educators, to get involved in the future of Glow.  The Glow Futures team are working hard collating information, facts and thoughts from all over Scotland.  Please make sure your voice is heard by replying to one of their online questionnaires of discussion forums – link here.

Glow Light⤴

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It seems that every time I am asked to stand up and talk about Glow my job gets a little bit easier.

The latest improvement is Glow Light, the new landing page for Glow.  Glow Light went live for many users across Scotland yesterday and marks a significant change to how people will use and view Glow because it gives users control of what they see as soon as they arrive into the Glow portal.

When you see the Glow Light page for the first time it looks like this:

It is really easy to change how Glow Light looks by removing buttons or adding new buttons (that can either take you to another favourite place within Glow or to an external favourite website).

A user can also reorder the way the buttons appear or indeed even chose to not see the Glow Light interface the next time they log on.

 

The background image will change every week.  We have a lovely wee bank of images to take us up until Christmas.  After that it is over to individuals, schools and Local Authorities to chose what images are displayed on the Glow Light landing page – meaning a chance for us all to showcase our work or local area to all Glow users.

The search button (seen in the middle of the new landing page) has been greatly improved too.  It is now possible to search by file type or only Glow groups.  A federated search has been added which currently means LTS Online content will also be returned when a user searches for a term from within Glow.  This can be added to in the future by searching CPD Find or Journey to Excellence content, for example.  This new improved search can be accessed from any Glow group, as well as from the Light landing page.

More information on Glow Light, including how a school ASM can turn it on can be found here.

 


 

 

 

 

Where has the time gone?⤴

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Has it really been almost 2 months since I last blogged?  I can’t quite believe that it has been that long but a quick look at my Outlook Calendar reminds me just how busy I have been.

I started at LTS 3 weeks before the end of term, and gave up my teacher holidays into the bargain.  In truth I didn’t miss the holidays and have loved everything I have done in the last 3 months.  I was on holiday for the first 2 weeks of August and for the first time in my teaching life I took the full holiday to relax!  No emails, no work, just family and relaxation!

I am learning all the time.  The biggest change with my new job has been having to organise my own time.  In school I was used to bells and timetables; now the bells have been replaced with calendar alarms and the timetables with Scotrail!

Things have really got busy since the schools and uni’s went back.  Lot’s of training and projects planned with various people to keep me busy in the run up to SLF.  Then the 2 day conference itself will be great as I will get to meet lots more people (as well as catching up with twitter buds and friends).

I have been involved with the new Glow blogs which has been great.  I have really enjoyed understanding more about the processes that go on to make ideas a reality.  I have become more creative (thanks to my new colleague and buddy Pam) and have taken a fresh approach to the Glow groups under my charge – not just by improving how they look with new interfaces but more importantly focussing on the purpose of the group – is it clear why the group exists and does it achieve what it should?

You will notice a difference in the look and purpose of many National Curriculum groups over the coming months as many of my LTS Curriculum colleagues have been working hard on updating the national groups content and layout to make them even more user friendly.

Look out to for a new marketing campaign coming soon highlighting why we think Glow is getting better!

Fail whale⤴

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There’s something about Twitter…

What is going on with Twitter?  I know there are huge benefits to tweeting: I get so much out of it, by way of contacts, links, ideas, support and sometimes just a good old laugh! BUT the problems the site has been having recently have been driving me nuts!

Tweetdeck failed to show anything in my columns for most of the day yesterday (despite twitter.com functioning normally).  Sometimes you tweet once and end up showing your message 3 or 4 times as it ‘pretends’ not to show.  More frequently, tweets are sent to you in the wrong order, making it difficult to follow conversations.  And then there is the dreaded Fail Whale, that looks at you smugly when things go wrong.

I guess my question is, at what point does the bad outway the good?  How long are people going to put up with the overcapacity and the capped API rates? When do you say, “actually you have had long enough to sort this out and I’m going to stop using your service”?

I don’t know the answer to those questions.  I can’t think of another Internet service that consistently performs so poorly that people stick with.  Having said that I think I’ll stick with it a wee bit longer.  It is, after all, a great thing.  Phew, nearly talked myself out of Twitter there…