Tag Archives: GlowPlus

The Tablet Procurement Framework – Time for some adjustment?⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

I-5 Bridge CollapseA recent post  on All things D highlights how devices which have been somewhat off the radar in education have quietly gained kudos and market share. The Kindle Fire featured in this post is one such device. Interestingly,  Amazon’s own app store is also gaining some traction.

The Fire is not currently included in the Scottish Government Tablet Device Procurement Framework for Education  and neither is one of the other recent success stories in education, the Chromebook. I recently wrote about the Microsoft Surface tablet and how subsequent iterations (the Surface 2 is now out)  will find their place in   schools. The Surface is not in the framework either, and the new Toshiba Encore is a fantastic tablet running Windows 8.1 which certainly should be.  This platform is a great fit with the Microsoft Office 365 on which the current iteration of GLOW is based, when schools eventually get it.

The procurement framework was one of the key planks of the Scottish Government ICT in education programme. It coincided with our work on the ICT Excellence group where access was one of our key concerns in the report accepted by the Cabinet Secretary back in February this year. I know the introduction of the framework was applauded at the time as a way of increasing access, or at least helping schools with purchasing tablets, even if the pricing structure was not incredibly competitive! The Framework document states…

The national framework has secured the following benefits:
 Provides access to devices for the purposes of education in Scotland, enhancing learning and teaching, supporting digital inclusion across Scotland’s schools.
 Provides a range of tablet devices with various operating systems, at market leading prices.
 Provides a range of competitively priced upgraded devices and accessories.
 Provides consistent national pricing, regardless of size or geographical location.
 Provides an easy route to market for contracting organisations.
 Provides organisations with one central point for ordering and contract management covering warranty, insurance and general supply enquiries
It is anticipated that the majority of requirements for tablet devices will be met through the National Framework.

The last sentence is very telling for me because I don’t think this is now true.  Are schools blindly purchasing iPads without a thought for what their needs actually are? Are schools accessing good advice and help with needs evaluation before making tablet purchasing decisions? That any investment in tablet devices is based upon needs and not simply driven by ‘Magpie decision making’ (lets collect shiny things) or a herd mentality is crucial to a successful tablet roll out and schools cannot afford not to factor in Office 365 and GLOW, and therefore the full (rather than the somewhat restricted range of devices offered through the current framework) range of current devices into their decision making process. The current Framework covers purchases but not the advice and training which is a vital component of any tablet device deployment.

Some local authorities are geared up for this, particularly Edinburgh with its superb Digital learning Team and experienced practitioners like Mark Cunningham. Other sources of advice are available, including the Learning with Devices blog which is from Education Scotland,  and truly independent consultants and organisations not tied to any one particular platform or reseller  such as Tablet Academy Scotland which can provide specialist evaluation services covering all operating systems and devices. This can help schools weigh up the pro’s and con’s of all the different devices and platforms and assist them to arrive at the choice which meets their own particular needs.

If you are considering purchasing Tablets, first ask this; Has your Local Authority or Learning Community held a Tablet Evaluation Workshop day yet?  Have you researched the web for information on different tablets? Do you need to use the procurement Framework or is your chosen device not featured, and can you get a better deal elsewhere?

Taking good advice and doing the research before making significant purchases is something which needs to be encouraged so that LA’s and schools don’t end up with yet more ‘White Elephant’ technologies on their storeroom shelves.  Good advice taken directly from locally-based trainers who have worked with Curriculum for Excellence and appreciate how tablet devices enhance it’s delivery and practice is also crucial because its not just about the devices, its also about how you manage them within your current and future ICT Tech support set up. This is where good advice from the experts in actually using tablet devices in schools (and not just selling to education experience) is crucial to the success of your roll-out.  Apple have certainly recognised the importance of this last point.

Another part of the Framework agreement is even more interesting…

“There is an on-going obligation on the successful supplier to identify new or potential improvements with a view to reducing costs and/or improving the quality and efficiency of the products and services”.

Has this happened with the current Framework arrangements? And is this something which needs to be examined more closely when the first year comes to an end and is reviewed in May 2014? There have been developments during the lifespan of the current framework which have been significant enough to have merited examination, yet I’m not aware of any changes made to the existing framework detail during its life to date. One example would be the Chromebook, which is even featured on the Learning with Devices blog yet remains absent from the framework and also the more recent Kindle offerings from Amazon and the previously mentioned Windows 8 devices.

That the Windows 8 platform does not feature prominently in the framework is one of many reasons why schools and LA’s  might give serious consideration to bypassing it and making direct purchases. The up to date versions of the Office applications which come with Windows 8.1 are a great fit with the corresponding web apps within Office 365 and therefore, GLOW.

It seems to me that whilst the Framework has been a very good vehicle for making bulk purchases, it has also been a great opportunity lost (this is how a few disappointed LA IT folks have described it to me) and in particular is unadventurous when it comes to price and device range. In fact, when it can be said that the major benefit is not having to go down to Argos or PC World with a back pocket stuffed full of enough £50 notes to cover your purchase, then there needs to be a full review and evaluation of the Tablet procurement Framework at the Scottish Government  before any extension or renewal takes place.

I wonder when review time rolls around might it be time for the Government to start talking to the manufacturers directly?  Might this approach offer education the opportunity for some much more adventurous and innovative technology use with each manufacturer that wished to engage with Education offering special purchase schemes for schools and other institutions? This might also encourage targeted support for specific platforms.

The Tablet Device Framework was a first step in the right direction to widen access and manage the mobile device revolution in education but there now needs to be a serious conversation about widening access and this means re evaluating the current framework and perhaps changing tack.  My own view is that schools considering tablet device purchases should examine all their available options both from inside and outside the current Framework…and get good independent advice before making decisions and then purchases.

(Please see the usual disclaimer which applies to all of my blog posts. Image from vancouversun.com ccl)

Filed under: capacity-building, change, future of education, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, teaching and learning Tagged: android, edtech, Framework, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICTEx, iPad, Kindle, Microsoft, mobile devices, Office 365, procurement, Scottish Government, Surface 2, Surface Pro, Tablets, Toshiba Encore, Windows 8, XMA

Tablet Academy comes to Scotland….and the world!⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

Logo tablet academy Formed by the highly respected and influential educational technologist Professor  Steve Molyneux, Tablet Academy has established itself as one of the UK’s leading  training providers for mobile device use. Steve is a well known and respected  independent consultant in the use of learning technologies to support education  and training both across the UK and internationally. I’ve been doing some initial  groundwork with Steve in Scotland and I’m pleased to say that Tablet Academy  Scotland is now up and running, headed up by new CEO,  the wonderful and equally  well respected Pam Currie.

It is certainly an interesting and busy time for Tablet Academy as the business grows around the world. Tablet Academy UK is growing in Europe, and also Tablet Academy Africa is already up and running across Africa and the Middle East. This growth is in no small part due to the product on offer; tablet training and consultancy across all the three main operating systems. Apart from a well established portfolio of completely flexible and client-centred iPad training courses (ideal for organisations wishing to have their training completely personalised to suit their own specific needs) Tablet Academy has Apple Distinguished Educators who can deliver the full catalogue of Apple professional Development courses. This is significant for those taking advantage of the training on offer through the Scottish Government Tablet procurement Framework  after purchasing  iPads.

You can contact Tablet Academy here for some great deals on all of these course portfolios not available elsewhere.

Tablet Academy was also the first training consultancy to design courses for those education organisations choosing devices running Windows 8.  Full details of these courses can be found here. Included is an introduction to using Office 365 which might be of particular interest in Scotland where the national schools intranet has started moving across to its new home based in office 365 and SharePoint. I’ve spent a lot of time recently writing training guides for Office 365 in Education and with huge growth worldwide in its use in schools, colleges and universities, I can certainly see Windows 8 tablets challenging the iPad for market sector dominance in many countries around the world. The new Microsoft Surface 2 is a lovely machine..

Android courses are already up and running through Tablet Academy Africa and will also be offered to the UK and Europe very soon. With Google introducing the new Play Store for Education and working with tablet manufacturers (including Asus and HP) to pre-install Google Apps for Education, there is more significant investment into the Android platform. The devices are usually less expensive than iPads and so appeal to those with tighter or more limited budgets. In most cases, this in no way diminishes their value in the classroom and for learning.

So if you are a school, college, or university, browse the new website, and get in touch with Tablet Academy to discuss your training needs. Local Education Authorities, districts and provinces can take advantage of even better pricing by becoming Tablet Academy regional training centres and accessing a whole range of benefits including software and cloud service discounts and free training places on all courses they run,  MediaCore being just one of these. All the trainers are teachers with expertise in using mobile devices in learning and teaching. They are usually all local and so in Scotland for example, they will have direct experience of working with A Curriculum for Excellence across all sectors and subjects. It is this local capacity which perhaps sets them apart from other training businesses offering their services to education establishments.

And if you’re interested in working for Tablet Academy anywhere in the world, they are always on the look out for experienced educators with classroom experience of using mobile devices to enhance learning and teaching  so have a look at the website and get in touch…

(as with all the posts on this blog, readers are advised to note the contents of my standard disclaimer)

Filed under: capacity-building, change, CPD, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, teaching and learning Tagged: ADE, android, APD, Apple, Google, Google Apps for Education, Google Play Store, iPads, Microsoft, mobile devices, Office 365, Pam Currie, Sharepoint., Steve Molyneux, Surface 2, Surface Pro 2, Tablet Academy Africa, Tablet Academy Scotland, Tablet AcademyUK, Tablets, Windows 8, XMA

Welcome progress on GlowPlus⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

Those who read my blog post about the lack of progress on GlowPlus last month will welcome a couple of developments in the progress toward making the ICT Excellence group report a reality.

First, the briefing papers and other supporting documents from the Excellence group meetings and workshops have now been published on the Scottish Government ICT in education website. This is significant for anybody or organisation who might at some time in the future wish to use the work of the group as a case study or simply wish to write about the project. For despite the somewhat dismissive remarks made by a former senior Education Scotland staffer about ICTEx on Twitter recently, the way the group was set up and it’s composition was a game-changer in the way education projects are managed and a radical departure from the ways in which such work had been carried out in the past. All credit to Education Secretary Michael Russell for having the courage to act decisively in this respect.

And the second piece of progress is perhaps similar, in that the issue of a lack of experienced and current educationalists on the GlowPlus implementation group which I wrote about is finally being addressed. Whilst this is long overdue, better late than never I suppose. I can’t say too much more about this yet, but I’m sure the wider education community in Scotland and further afield will be much more confident in the ability of the team to be able to deliver the ICTEx solution as things evolve over the next few months.

(The usual advice to read my standard disclaimer applies to this, and indeed all of my blog posts)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Welcome progress on GlowPlus

Filed under: capacity-building, change, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, politics Tagged: GLOW, GlowPlus, ICTEx, Transparency, Twitter

A tale of two Bills⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

One Bill who clearly doesn’t ‘get it’ to another Bill who clearly now does…

The first is of course Bill Maxwell, head of Education Scotland still limping along despite having been holed below the waterline by a group of his staff (despite the warnings they were offered well over a year ago) over the Glow migration project. The second is Bill Gates who has just been interviewed setting out his viewpoint on the future of education technology and classroom practice. Whilst bemoaning the slow rate at which teachers are adopting the use of technology, he talks up the value of communication and informal learning.

This is something I’ve written about myself on several occasions here and in
other places

I think we are now past the era of content consumption. The cry we hear of ‘Content is King’ is surely now redundant? Loading up tablet devices with electronic versions of textbooks (interactive though the best ones may be) is simply not enough anymore. To use these powerful computers as electronic book readers is to subjugate the connective power of the internet. Real learning takes place through the communication and subsequent collaboration which happens when people become connected and confident internet users. Paulo Freire talks about this connectivity driving learning through communication and dialogue in his seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed His dissection of twentieth century pedagogies as merely ‘banking’ (where learners are simply empty vessels waiting to be filled) leads readers to a new learning paradigm of learners being ‘co-creators’ of knowledge. The *content* follows the collaboration, rather than being the starting point. Indeed, this communication actually becomes the new content, as networks develop and increase creating a digital trail of dialogue and interaction, curated and digitally bookmarked by many different users.

John Connell, writing in a recent blog post on education and schooling alludes to education being a ‘battleground of ideas’  and  ’falling into the spheres of philosophy, belief and prejudice’. He quotes Illich in support of a necessary discourse element. The ‘banking’ so derided by Freire surely has seen its age come and gone, whatever your educational credo.

And so back to our two Bills. One of them is actually starting to get it…. He recognises past mistakes and accepts a large measure of responsibility for them, whilst looking ahead to a future which is user-centric and heutagogicaly oriented, recognising learners as full partners whose role is to co-create through communication rather than accepting dysfunctional outdated content driven delivery and brushing over past mistakes and lack of accountability.


Filed under: capacity-building, change, Equality, future of education, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, politics Tagged: Bill Gates, Bill Maxwell, disruptive technologies, Education, GLOW, heutagogy, ICTEx, Paulo Freire, pedagogy, Philosophy, Technology

Rhetoric and Spin- Or the truth hurts ?⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

Viewers of the live feed from the Scottish Parliament today were treated to a rare bit of knockabout as Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell was forced into a lukewarm defence of Glow and the current migration chaos when faced with some serious challenges from the opposition at Education Questions. You can read a copy of the transcript here

Kezia Dugdale, the new Labour Education spokesperson certainly drew blood in her first Holyrood exchange with Mr Russell following the summer break.

downloadOf course, the very fact that the political consensus over Glow has apparently reached an end over the endless amounts of money that has been chucked at it over the years, is significant for two reasons. Firstly, there is a real problem which many people are just refusing to admit the actual scale of. I’ve had literally hundreds of messages in various forms over the past few weeks asking me just what is happening. As a member of the ICTEx Key Reference group, I’m not directly involved with this latest Education Scotland-managed debacle, but despite Mr Russell’s somewhat muted defence (and you know he’s struggling to get his eye in when he has to resort to taking an MSP to task for laughing) there is indeed chaos. If you read between the lines in his answers, you can see just where this chaos is. What he failed to tell the parliament today is this…

  • The problems with the migration were all well known about more than a year in advance, as were the solutions and work arounds. Education Scotland can’t or won’t say why these warnings were not heeded and the contingencies not put in place to avoid the resultant chaos.
  • Local Authorities,schools and teachers are going to have to spend thousands of hours on making the migrated data into something which is usable.
  • Teachers will need training in how to use what is a completely unrecognisable system. Office 365 is not the most intuitive platform. I know. I’ve spent the past few weeks writing extensive training guides for using it in schools in another country.
  • Many Local Authorities and schools now intend to’park’ their data in Office 365 and have no intention of using Glow until the ICTEx solution comes on stream (and this may be up to a year later than planned). Many are switching to Edmodo and other easy to use platforms and tools.
  • The Office 365 support materials he talks about are just not there. Or if they are, they are almost impossible to find and I’ve been asking for sight of these from Education Scotland for some months now. If I,  as a member of a government advisory group can’t prise them out of ES, then lord help hard-pressed teachers and LA staff.
  • The credibility of the whole Glow replacement project  and confidence in the ability of Education Scotland to manage anything of significance is now rock bottom,at least as far as teachers are concerned.

It is very easy for Michael Russell to warn MSP’s about listening to the ‘Rhetoric from one or two individuals’  as he put it in his answer, but to go on and claim that very real concerns are not shared by most teachers, as he does is one of the most superb uses of hyperbole that I have ever heard in all the discussion and debate surrounding this whole sorry business. I’d challenge him to justify this statement because its just plain nonsense.

Education Scotland CEO Bill Maxwell is now being forced to saddle up and ride to the rescue with a support package for LA’s to help with the migration problems. My question is this… why now and not months ago? After all,  these problems were not unexpected and solutions were scoped out last year. The accountability of certain project managers and senior figures within Education Scotland for this disaster must surely now be the real issue for Dr Maxwell. Bolting the stable door after the horse has well and truly buggered off has become almost the modus operandi for Education Scotland, but this time, it simply just won’t do.  Surely somebody must take the ultimate responsibility,and the only honourable course of action for this utter fiasco?

And as for Mr Russell, the second reason why the collapse of the parliamentary consensus over Glow is perhaps more significant, and it is the political one. Education must now surely become an issue in the independence referendum. If Education Scotland, managed by an SNP-led Scottish Government can be allowed to blow over £100 Million of public money on a national intranet which doesn’t work and has become an international laughing stock without any visible measure of accountability, what does that say about the ability to prioritise spending in education appropriately, rather than just to save certain highly-paid faces?

I happen to think that Mr Russell is probably the best Education Secretary Scotland has had,post devolution (and probably before that too) and I’ve said this many a time before. He’s made a decisive and sometimes very imaginative impact on Scottish Education,. But with this exchange at Holyrood, as with his overtly political speech at the learning festival he has gone off-message at a time when decisive leadership is required.

I’ve also said before that I think he is extremely badly advised. So here’s a bit of advice. If you want to talk about rhetoric Mike, Stop listening to the rhetoric and spin emanating from those around you and at Education Scotland and start to hold them accountable for this current catalogue of failures with Glow migration.

And since he raised the subject of the views of the ‘teacher membership of the significant groups‘ I feel justified in assuring the cabinet secretary that  far from disagreeing, they’d echo the sentiments of the ‘one or two individuals’ he referred to in his answer to the Parliament.

…or should I ask Kirk Ramsay if I could borrow his pen for future such significant group meetings?

(Image from journal-online.co.uk CCL )

As with all my blog posts, my standard disclaimer applies to this one. That said, I’m off to schmooze now…

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Bill Maxwell, Education Scotland, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICTEx, Kirk Ramsay, Michael Russell

Questions need answers…more GLOW woes for Education Scotland⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

Glow is in big trouble. The migration of the existing Glow content to it’s new home within office 365 is in complete disarray. And after spending over £100 million on the GLOW project since its inception, just why is it that we don’t  have something which works? 

Local authorities are exasperated and fed up with what they see as poor communication from Education Scotland, the agency tasked with leading the migration and RM, the current Glow contractor carrying out the work. There is anger that progress, pledged to take place over the summer break, simply hasn’t happened. 

The current situation with Glow Plus is chaotic. How has Education Scotland managed to get into this mess and why is the communication to its users almost non-existent?  I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many LA senior managers and headteachers over the past few weeks and the message I get is one of total confusion, exasperation and even anger at the chaotic situation surrounding  ‘inbetweeny’  Glow (as the Microsoft/RM version is commonly known as). In fact the situation has become so dire that the learning directorate and ES were forced to write to everyone concerned about the migration of resources from the GLOW v1 MLE (Managed  learning environment) over to the new Glow MLE (also based on Microsoft’s Sharepoint technology, but integrated with Office 365).

Not only can these converted resources not be read by the old Glow digital tools but there are also problems using them with the new Office 365 platform (versions of Microsoft’s Office software programs that operate in the ‘cloud’).

And as if things couldn’t get much worse, the much loved WordPress blogging platform is to disappear this December and no migration plan has been revealed for all of that data to a new blogging platform – important as many were using the blogs for their records of achievement or ePortfolios. It appears to be a double whammy – the new tools don’t work properly with the content in the new MLE, and the old, familiar, trusted digital tools have been withdrawn.

Of course, we had a flavour of what was to come well before the summer break when Highland Council had a huge problem over migrating email. As well as this, Charlie Love has detailed in a superb blog post how the potential for this disaster was identified back in early 2012 and solutions devised to prevent it happening.

Education Scotland’s Stuart Campbell and Ken Muir had assured members of the ICTEx group at a meeting at the end of 2012 that migration plans were in place and workable. If this was the case, many might ask why the potential problems were not identified in the project risk register and action plans put in place to mitigate the possible pitfalls. After all, it wouldn’t have taken a genius to have looked at the user stats and identified that the vast majority of data in GLOW was not used anymore and therefore would not needed to be migrated.

Key contacts could have been asked to instigate a ‘cull’ of resources that did not need to be migrated across their establishments. Instead of which we now have a chaotic situation where some sites are too big to migrate, and the overall huge amount of data is completely clogging up the process.

Many LA sites will be too big for the new cloud-based SharePoint based MLE, and Charlie Love’s article on these issues, which merits wide reading, reads like the script of a disaster movie!   This is going to be a real problem for LAs which have made decisions about using Glow as a significant part of their intranet communications. Many of the original Glow web parts will now not exist in 365 and everybody who wants to use Glow  will have to spend huge amounts of time rebuilding their sites for Office 365, which was never really designed for schools anyway.

I’m currently writing user guides for using Office 365 in Education as a part of a business  project in another country, and so I am well aware that it might not the most intuitive product out there,  but despite its real potential for use in schools, it is in danger of being tarred with the ‘reject’ brush here in Scotland  particularly when you add this latest situation to the user engagement trials in early 2012 when although not fully developed it was pitched head to head with a much more mature product,  Google Apps for Education. The Scottish Government has consistently refused to release the results of these trials, but they are nevertheless widely available despite this and show Google Apps to be the product of choice at the time.

So now the danger is that public perception of Glow will suffer yet again at the hands of inept management of the migration project by Education Scotland – yet another big project managed to disaster by this agency. If ever there was an argument for considerably reducing its remit, this must be it, because ES has effectively killed off what little confidence the Scottish education community had in GLOW. And Microsoft Office 365 could suffer the same fate by association. How embarrassed must they all be by this fiasco?

And so yet again, I find myself calling for a moratorium on any future work on GLOW and the migration project until the problems are sorted out. Any local education authority or independent school which might be thinking about how to move forward with GLOW should stop right now. In fact, I have to say that, in my opinion, they would be crazy to even consider GLOW as a part of any development planning for at least the next school year until the picture becomes clearer and the product workable.

With tablet devices becoming increasingly available, and with MLEs like Edmodo and My Big Campus gaining real traction in our schools, together with a myriad of tools and apps for education, the question has to be asked, ’Is there any use for GLOW in its current form in schools and, as Charlie Love suggests, should we not just use it as a storage ‘digital suitcase’ for any data LAs want to preserve from the old GLOW?

GlowPlus must surely now be something very distinct from anything that has gone before.  A new start, with a new name. Education Scotland must up its game and build capacity as it currently does not appear to be capable of managing a national schools learning platform. Otherwise Glow Plus must be managed separately- it is just too important to suffer a repeat of past failures.

And above all, after over £100 Million has been spent on GLOW since it’s inception (and this doesn’t include the money to be paid to RM for the new secure authentication portal and two year management contract) I think the Scottish Education Community, parents and students, as well as the wider public are entitled to expect some bang for their taxpayer bucks! Or at least something which works.  And after all this money has been spent, lets just pause for a moment to consider just what exactly have we got to show for all that investment at this present moment in time? 

(Readers are advised to read my standard disclaimer which covers everything I write about everything – even schmoozing ! )

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Edmodo, Education Scotland, GLOW, GlowPlus, Google, Microsoft, MLE, My Big Campus, Office 365, Scottish Government

Microsoft Surface Pro – a serious player for the education market?⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

MS Surface tablet

I’ve been working on my new Microsoft Surface pro this past couple of weeks. It’s certainly been an experience, and a steep learning curve. I’ve spent the past five years completely reliant on Apple products, including the incredible iPad and iPad mini’s. I had to get used to different screen swipes at first as the instinctive reaction is to use the iPad movements which have become almost like a form of automatic processing.  And this machine is starting to grow on me. The windows 8.1 platform is pretty cool, and of course, all the Office productivity apps which are included make using documents, spreadsheets and presentations across my Windows machines pretty seamless.

The Tablet it’self has a USB port, amongst the others, which is incredibly useful for printing and connecting other devices, if thats what you need to do. Whilst this might appear to be an advantage, the increasing use of the cloud and wifi for printing might soon make this superfluous? The keyboard is useful too and provides a useful cover for the screen when not in use.  Magnetic attachments for this keyboard and the charger are pretty cool too…

It’s been said that the Windows App Store is the big let down for this tablet platform,but the range is increasing all the time. Might this soon erode the dominance of the Apple App store?  who can tell. But with Microsoft making a version of this tablet available for an incredibly low price, it certainly becomes an attractive alternative to the iPad particularly as Microsoft Office still dominates. The rest of the public sector might also consider this Tab a serious player too, on the same basis. Schools,provinces and districts using the Microsoft 365 for Education will also no doubt find this tablet a worthwhile alternative to consider. It is pretty chunky compared to the more stylish iPad, but in the mass market public sector, do looks really matter that much?

I’m going to continue working on mine. This doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned Apple and my iPad – far from it.personally, I still think Apple have the education market dominance,particularly with their quite brilliant support and apps such as iTunesU, Garageband , and iMovie. And making the iLife suite available free from September 18th is a very canny move which will further cement their number one position at the moment.

…But the competitors, like this Surface pro and Samsung are determined to chase them hard all the way, and if I was Tim Cook, I’d be looking over my shoulder for sure.  All in all, good competition for the tablet market will be good for education too.

Here’s an interesting article link  to some more information about using the Surface tablet.

  Unlock your Surface RT tablet’s hidden superpowers.

(As always, readers are advised to checkout the disclaimer which applies to all my blog posts and which can be found by clicking on the tab at the top of the page).

Filed under: change, future of education, ICT Tagged: Apple, GLOW, GlowPlus, iPad, iPad Mini, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Surface Pro, Samsung

Dissenting voices and counter intuitive thinking…⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

Education needs dissenting voices and counter-intuitive thinking. 

So says the leader in last week’s Times Educational Supplement Scotland. I’ve been asked quite a lot why it is that I’ve stopped being the ‘dissenting voice’ I used to be particularly with regard to Glow. I guess the answer to this is that I’ve tried to put my money where my mouth was and contribute to a future successful iteration of a national managed learning platform… however, recent developments have made me reconsider this comparative silence, together with my own role within the current process.

PersonalityPruningThe ICTEx group, of which I was a member was tasked with producing a ‘blueprint’ of how a user-centred Scottish Schools National Intranet should take shape over the coming years from December 2013 onwards.  My colleagues and I produced a paper outlining a vision for a future version of GLOW. It was a user centred proposal based upon vast experience brought to the table by group members representing all areas of education expertise and constituency, as well as the extensive collective consultations with the education community of the previous two years. This was a radical departure from the normal practice of collecting a spattering of the ‘usual suspects’ (Unions, ADES, GTCS, etc etc) and civil servants to form such groups and prompted huge expectations from the Scottish Education community that at long last, things were on the up with Glow and the future of ICT in Scottish school education as the excellence group brought an unbeatable combination of skills and experience to meld with the political will of an education secretary determined that the project should break free of the previous troubles and become something which would add real value to classrooms up and down the land.

This progress now appears to be in danger from two directions; Firstly, the current debacle which has been allowed to develop over the migration of GLOW resources to Office 365 (despite the problems being identified as potential threats as early as last August!).   The changeover to Microsoft 365 with the migrated date being in a format which is unrecognisable has caused chaos around the country and  will require significant time and effort from Local Authority education staff to reconstruct all of their Glow sites (and thats before they even get started on their schools!)  This poses a threat to the future credibility of any government/Education Scotland managed learning environment, or GlowPlus as our paper called our vision. I will write about this shortly.

However, it is the second danger to progress which I’m going to highlight in this post.

Avid followers of the GlowPlus project evolution and implementation might be frequent flyers on the Scottish Government Learning Directorate website where all the minutes and presentations are published. The revamped website appeared to be a huge improvement and heralded a more open and transparent future  (albeit with some rather glaring omissions like missing meeting minutes from all three connected groups ). And so visitors to the site might have wondered why the Project Board commissioned two particular pieces of work. The ones I’m referring to are of course the review of  ”Learning VLE’s”  by MRUK and a review of   “user experiences/development of user stories and prototyping”  by Story/Nile.

I’ve been out and about quite a lot in recent weeks, and more than a few folks have asked me why this first piece of work was commissioned as it tells us nothing we don’t already know. There are two educationalists on the board who could have told the board everything that was in it.  Furthermore, the Key Reference group, set up to ‘act as a reference point’  for the board contains internationally experienced and renowned experts on learning platforms. Are the wider community observing this process seriously to believe that folks such as Ewan McIntosh,  Mike Sharples, Ian Somerville,  Jeff Hayward,  Steven Heppell, Charlie Love and Neil Winton had nothing to offer the project Board here? And that the other group members, most of whom have experience with a range of learning platforms and who are frequently consulted by both suppliers and user groups on their use could not have given advice? It’s been said to me that their collective knowledge on Managed Learning Environments far surpasses anything a consulting business such as MRUK, a generic market and social research company could put together. They are, collectively, at the cutting edge of everything which has gone before, is currently in use, and what is coming, and so why are we spending education funding on this piece of work? In fact, if you look at the front page of their website,  MRUK have lots of links to their ‘specialist areas of expertise’ but strangely enough, education does not feature amongst these!  One well respected Scottish education figure privately described the MRUK report to me as ‘Utter shite’!

Ironically,  Key Reference group Member Professor Stephen Heppell is chairman of Learning Possibilities, the company which is implementing the Hwb national education MLE for the Welsh Government which is mentioned nowhere in the MRUK report even though there are many obvious parallels with Glow. Incidentally, Hwb+, the secure part of Hwb, is based on the LP+ VLE and can be accessed on any platform or device (the favoured communications technology is Microsoft’s Office 365).  Is anyone from the Project Team, Board or Education Scotland  talking to our Welsh counterparts or, better still,  visiting Welsh schools using the service?

What a pointless waste of taxpayers money, and shocking discourtesy and naivety on the part of the implementation team lead by Robbie Parrish. But then again, this team has one glaring omission which might explain this – it (currently) has no one on it with any experience at all in education!

And even worse, the Project Board agreed this.  Now it does have educationalists -one of whom is still teaching in school on it, but  were they listened to? Is this a gradual exclusion of the educationalists and the isolation of those that remain? Because there was a definite commitment from Mr Russell that this new practice of involvement of teachers and other educationalists started with the make-up of the Excellence group would continue.  Are we going the same way as previous GLOW projects have gone?   sunk by a sublimation into generic government project management and the exclusion of the people with the real experience to make it work well to suit the needs of the real end users – teachers and pupils.  When will they realise that education does not and cannot work in this way?

The second piece of work is even more concerning.  After nearly three years of consultation resulting in probably the most wide ranging opinion gathering exercise in education ever,  why are we now spending more education money on a ‘Glow user analysis and GLOW user experience’ commission?  If the team had *any* members from the education community on it (and there are many who are well qualified to do this work) then there would be absolutely no need for this. In any event, the ICT Excellence paper outlined a recommended plan based upon the needs of the education community represented by its members.

As a member of the Excellence group, and of the Key Reference group, lots of people have been asking me in recent weeks just what is going on with GlowPlus?  And why is work being carried out which appears to be at best, duplication and at worst, downright incompetence? Particularly as there is already a group of people who both individually and collectively have far more relevant, strategic and international knowledge available which could have informed the Project Board’s decisions where necessary. A world- beating source of education experience and knowledge in fact.  After all, in the remit of the Key Ref Group, it says..

“ Given the extensive and valued experience and expertise provided collectively by the Group, it is also anticipated that they will:

  • provide advice in relation to stakeholder engagement and consultation activities;
  • ensure the Project Board has identified all of the relevant issues and perspectives; and
  • where consulted, make suggestions as to how the implementation could be changed or improved”

If I’m honest, I couldn’t answer these questions folks have asked me or defend the decisions of the board about the commissioning of this work. Only the board itself could do this.

However, as a member of the Key Reference group set up to..

 to ensure that the implementation of those ICT in Education Excellence Group’s recommendations, as accepted by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, are designed, developed and taken forward with a user-oriented approach

…I will be asking these questions on behalf of those teachers, parents and educationalists who’ve asked them of me.  Yet again, I’m reminded of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and what he wrote  in his book about the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa which is highly relevant. He said this..

We need to develop our capacity for asking awkward questions.

I’ve had somewhat of a history of doing just that, at least as far as GLOW has been concerned.  I see this an essential check and balance mechanism on the work of the project team and board going forward.

If we are serious about building a national intranet, then we must learn from the mistakes of the past.  From a process which failed the country quite badly,

This is not a ‘Government IT project’…. this is an Education IT project.  The difference is in the word beginning with an ‘ E’ . Research from past such projects shows why education needs to be treated rather differently. Michael Russell, to his credit, realised this very early on in his tenure in the education hot seat.  However, six months later, progress on the implementation of GlowPlus is stuck in this mire of government procedure and red tape.

Just like before, the learning directorate appears to many to be unable to get a grip on this project or realise that an education community which has previously felt so disenfranchised and remote from the process is now feeling exactly the same way again. Confusion and poor communication yet again characterise every part of the overall GLOW project, both current and future. Transparency and openness are virtually non existent.   Either this project starts moving forward in a way which will be for the ultimate benefit of the education community, rather than for the convenience of generic civil service project management planning checklists or it needs to be completely dumped once and for all.

With the myriad of resources, tools and devices now available, and with increasing capacity of both awareness and skill building within the education community, Maybe we need to revisit this fundamental issue of whether there is still the appetite for a national MLE in Scotland. There has been an apparent political consensus over Glow in recent years with surprisingly little mention by the opposition parties at Holyrood. With the independence referendum coming up fast and an election to follow, I’d think that the current government have a lot to lose in terms of political capital,  if Glow can’t be realised in the way that the ICTEx report envisioned.

I started this post by quoting the TESS opinion leader comment  - Education needs dissenting voices and counter-intuitive thinking -

So much for being a dissenting voice and my need to re-register my membership,  but what about the “counter-intuitive thinking mentioned by the TESS?

 Well clearly the intuitive thinking of our civil servants is that they know best. When it comes to technology that is their ‘snap to guides’. Even when their customers – educators and learners – tell them the opposite. 

Counter-intuition should tell them that the Scottish education community is involved in all sorts of ground-breaking work so we are the ones who should be in the driving seat of GlowPlus. It might be the only way to get such this potentially transformational project back on track to release the value of such a massive investment of effort and cash.

(Image from ruthmalan.com  -  Readers are asked, as with all my posts, to read the disclaimer page by clicking on the tab above)

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Education Scotland, GLOW, GlowPlus, Hwb+, ICT, ICTEx, Key Ref Group, Michael Russell, Microsoft 365, MRUK, Nile, Story, TESS, Tutu, Wales

Ask awkward questions…⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

I recently heard of yet another Local Authority Education service in Scotland which refuses to provide Wifi and access to the network which would allow schools to harness the transformative power of technology to improve achievement, without any valid reason. This sort of thing really makes me fear for the future of education in our country.

It’s been said by many people that corporate IT folks in Local Authorities are the ones who are blocking Wifi and access to the school networks for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD or BYOT). Parents can help with this by putting pressure on their councillors and writing to the Heads of Education and complaining. Desmond Tutu, in his book about the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee hearings, wrote that society must develop its capacity for asking awkward questions…It is now perhaps time for a national mobilisation of parents, teachers and young people to put pressure on these heads of service at local level by asking questions, using FOI’s if necessary and making them aware that the current situation is unacceptable. Local elected representatives are particularly sensitive to this sort of pressure. So get organised and take action by asking awkward questions. Become change agents in your towns, cities and council areas.

ImageBut I say this, my personal message, to any corporate IT departments and Directors of Education who are currently blocking access to their networks, (and I heard of yet another at the weekend, somewhere to the north of here) – Stop now. You are using dubious excuses which have no currency and you are seriously damaging learning. There are no valid reasons for you to prevent such access by learners, or to provide them with Wifi. Other Councils such as South Lanarkshire manage to do this safely and securely. I know from my work on the ICTEx group with colleagues who are international experts on this matter that you are wrong. Any Director of education or head of service  who does not provide these two things should hang his or her head in shame – you are responsible for causing untold damage to our children’s future by your action or inaction and by ignoring sound educational research and good practice… and you will certainly never recoup your investment in GLOW if your learners can’t access it on devices and in ways of their choice- not yours.

I want to send a very clear message to these people, whoever and wherever they are… Your days are numbered and you will end up regarded as luddites when we look back in years to come. We will only end Scotland’s shame of poverty of ambition and close the attainment gap by re-engaging children with learning using the tools they are familiar with and want to use.  Stop demanding that children should power down when the come into schools.

We are in the middle of an information and technology revolution. Any Local Authority which fails to harness the power of this revolution is failing our future.

(Image from johnmichaelclarke.wordpress.com )

Readers should be aware of the usual disclaimer when reading this or any post on this blog.  Click on the button at the top of the page for details.

Filed under: capacity-building, change, future of education, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, Leadership, Research, teaching and learning Tagged: ADES, BYOD, BYOT, Education, Luddites, Technology, Wifi

Plus ca change…plus c’est la meme chose…⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

ImageThe more things change, the more they stay the same…

With the news, just announced, that RM have won the tender for the secure authentication and portal for GLOW for the next twenty-five months, the question now has to be asked, are we any further forward after two years of consultation, lots of money spent, and countless hours of debate and hard work by many people around the country?  In the letter today from the Scottish Government announcing the contract award, Liza McLean said this..

“Some of the key long term benefits for Scottish Education of these recent improvements to Glow will be

  •  MS Office 365 tools at no charge, provision of free, creative and relevant learning            content, no licence fees, reduced printing and copying costs and free storage

  •  A secure environment with any place, any time, any device access

  •  A user-focused environment, providing the ability to widen learning opportunities        and strengthen community partnerships

  •  An open system which is agile and responsive to our changing environment”

It is disappointing that the migration of the current GLOW to the Microsoft 365 platform is reported to have run into trouble, Charlie Love details this in his latest blog post. I don’t think Glow as it stands now, or will for the foreseeable future, comes anywhere close to the aspirations Liza sets out in the extract from her letter, above. There is lots which could (and probably will, in time) be said about the journey which we have made so far together with the procurement process which has lead to this latest contract award, and I’m sure many will now wish to comment.

I have, so far,  been cautiously optimistic about the progress towards the GlowPlus solution we outlined in our Excellence Group Final Report in January, and so for the moment I’m going to confine myself to saying this – After all the effort, struggle, dialogue and consultation, when the current contract extension for GLOW ends in December, we will move from an RM-fronted GLOW running on Microsoft Sharepoint to…… an RM-fronted GLOW running on Microsoft Sharepoint.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose….

( Please take a moment to read the disclaimer attached to everything written on this personal blog of mine )

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: GLOW, GlowPlus, ICTEx, Microsoft, RM, Sharepoint.