Glow 'must improve'

17th September 2010 at 01:00
Education directors seek assurances from Government over future of schools intranet

Directors of education are pressing the Government to give guarantees on the future of the Glow schools intranet.

The TESS understands that the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland has held meetings on the issue with Education Secretary Michael Russell and Learning and Teaching Scotland chief executive Bernard McLeary, to express the concerns of its members, including future funding for the system.

Mr Russell told us in a statement: "Glow has made a good start but it must improve."

Glow developments will form a centrepiece of next week's Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow, which is organised by LTS. The intranet is regarded as the key resource for schools to support everything from the curriculum to CPD.

Leslie Manson, ADES president, decided to commission a membership survey six months ago in response to "mutters and mumbles" about how well Glow was delivering.

Although Mr Manson said directors believed Glow was "a prize worth fighting for", the survey showed his members felt it needed to be "refreshed". With many other areas of social networking and developments such as the iPhone far more "intuitive" to use, ADES warns that teachers and pupils are likely to become frustrated with Glow and stop using it.

An analysis of the responses was carried out by Craig Clement, senior education manager at Angus Council and the ADES representative on the Glow executive board.

It revealed that two key areas on the intranet were felt to need attention. Glow Learn, intended to allow teachers to share lessons with each other, was not always easy to access. And Glow Meet, the video- conferencing tool, also had access problems, perhaps because of bandwidth issues in some geographical areas.

Directors also complained about difficulties in creating a Glow group for teachers to discuss subjects or areas of education, in linking Glow to the Seemis management software and in using the "limited" Glow Mail for emails.

Andrew Brown, head of Glow at LTS, said they had been seeking views from users over the past six months to find out exactly what improvements they would like to see. He conceded the feedback showed the system was not regarded as being as "fluid" as it could be.

Changes planned for Glow include an easier-to-navigate homepage known as Glow Light, the opportunity to publish and share information with Glow Blogs, an area to interact with other users in Glow Forums and a new Glow Mail interface.

But ADES said these changes did not tackle the software shortcomings. When Glow was launched in 2005, in partnership with the software company RM, it used Microsoft SharePoint as its sole intranet platform. At that time, it was at the cutting edge of IT; in future, Mr Clement has recommended, Glow should not be tied to a specific platform. The licence is due to be renegotiated in 2012.

Mr Clement said: "We need something that is sustainable and developed in such a way that it is not just for a point in time but can be readily adapted, so that, if new technologies emerge, we are not stuck to a particular software brand."

Mr Russell acknowledged these improvements and said that the Government's commitment was demonstrated by its annual pound;12m investment in IT for Scottish schools. "I will aim to protect this as much as possible in the forthcoming difficult period," he said, but added: "I expect to see this financial commitment matched by local authorities."

He called on ADES "to ensure that IT support for schools is prioritised within their local authority and the current constraints to GLOW usage imposed by local authorities are removed."

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