I mentioned Glow, the online community for Scottish schools, on Twitter recently. And, just like any other time you mention this word these days, it resulted in a fair amount of Glow-bashing. I somehow found myself acting as a defender of the community, which is odd because I don't use it much. I use the Twig videos, which require a Glow login, but that's it. Most of my students have never heard of Glow.
Like most detractors, I use Edmodo and Google Apps instead. So why am I defending something I don't use? For me, there's a difference between Glow as it is now and what it could be in the future; I'm defending what it could become. I agree that other tools are much more user-friendly than Glow, and as a teacher I am glad that I am able to choose to use them (many can't). At the same time, I see real potential in the Glow project. It will take a long time for free tools such as those mentioned already to move beyond a few users, and some people will never want to use them. But if Glow were to become user-friendly, I think it would penetrate Scottish classrooms and homes much more quickly than completely open-source independent tools.
I also believe that despite the controversy about the cost of Glow, it still makes economic sense. Without it, schools and authorities would eventually begin paying for commercial alternatives to get the security and data privacy they often demand, and a better user experience than Glow currently provides. At this point, the total cost to the public purse could become both vast and hidden. If each school or authority started paying yearly contracts to private companies, which already happens down south, surely the total cost would easily outweigh a single combined solution.
Ultimately, I don't actually care about Glow as such. All I care about is that we get learners making the most of the web's potential. I believe that from a policy, leadership and whole-system perspective, Glow offers a great way of achieving this - if done well.
Fearghal Kelly, Secondary teacher in East Lothian.