Do we need to relight the fuse on the schools' intranet?

31st August 2012 at 01:00
Perhaps it is time to consider Glow as a gateway rather than the garden of resources

Recent developments with Glow have left us somewhat in limbo. The sticking plaster in the form of a 15-month extension to RM's contract and Microsoft 365 for Education has been applied by a beleaguered Michael Russell, but where do we go when this peels off?

This is the question being considered by the ICT in Education Excellence working group, convened by Professor Muffy Calder. As one of those invited to be on this group, I've been thinking hard about the long-term future of ICT in education and to me it boils down to one fundamental question. Do we need a national intranet like Glow? Or has its time come and gone, chased down the pathway to obscurity (like many other smaller intranets and virtual learning environments) by the growing array of free tools available on the internet?

In the past, one of the arguments in favour of Glow was security and safety, but this created an inward-looking ecosystem isolated from the outside world. The benefits of collaboration and creation shared with others outside Scottish schools were lost. Glow became a giant document store with resources only available to those who created them and those with whom they chose to share them. How much better would it have been if this fabulous work had been shared outside Glow?

So here's an idea. Might we consider Glow as a gateway rather than the garden? A single sign-on which then gives users the choice of adding applications to their desktops, like Google's Chrome, or their smartphone screens? Opting in to a range of tools for communication, creation and collaboration gives a sense of ownership that teachers and pupils can buy into. It also gives us a fantastic opportunity to teach responsible use of the internet, trusting users to create a GlowPlus which is individual to them and their needs. National content could be added, as well as previously created materials, all open to the outside world if the owner chooses.

Surely a system fixed at any point in time is bound to become dated within a short period. It won't be content so much as the connections we make, that will be significant and, importantly, more future-proof. Our personal learning networks can be safe as well as outward-facing. Twitter and Facebook have already proved this. The real challenge facing us is how to harness the power of the connections we make to the tools we use to develop our own individual learning needs.

This is the real challenge facing the working group. We need to get it right.

Jaye Richards-Hill is a former learning community principal teacher and a member of the Scottish Government's ICT in Education Excellence Group.

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