Push for value netbooks and tablets in schools

1st February 2013 at 00:00
Meanwhile, an ICT Excellence Group report calls for new approach to classroom use

The Scottish government is attempting to bring tablets and netbooks into schools at an affordable price through a national procurement process, TESS can reveal.

It is "currently setting up a new contract that will allow professionals, including teachers, to access the latest IT technology and meet educational needs at the best possible value", a government spokesman said.

This would "ensure that public bodies across Scotland will be able to access tablets and netbooks under a contract, ensuring they get them at a consistent price".

Meanwhile, a radical new approach to ICT in schools - which may see the much-maligned Glow brand ditched - has been sketched out in a report that challenges local authorities to loosen their control of new technology.

It envisages a digital world in which teachers and pupils are free to decide which technology works best for them, unhindered by bandwidth limits, cumbersome software and edicts about when and where people can use the technology in their back pockets.

The ICT Excellence Group report, published five months after the group first met, acknowledges that Glow has become encumbered with negative connotations: "While these documents refer to this service with the working title of Glow Plus, the group proposes that a rebranding of the service - involving users - should be part of the implementation."

Whatever Glow's successor is called, a "fundamental assumption" is that teachers are trusted to exercise their professional judgement about how ICT is used. Equally, the system should be future-proof - nimble enough to adapt to rapid technological advances and with a "limited number of core products".

Pupils should be able to use their smartphones in classrooms, a move that would not only aid learning but make financial sense in the current economic climate, the report notes.

The report acknowledges that security is a "serious concern", but underlines that this applies chiefly in a corporate setting - it is "much less of a consideration for schools".

But it cautions that implementation of a "bring your own device" approach nationally should be "incremental".

Glow Plus is to be subject to an annual review process and overseen by a small team. It should avoid a rigid, prescribed approach, since that would ensure "expensive maintenance costs" as the wider world of technology progresses.

The report flags up the problem of differing approaches to ICT across Scotland, adding: "For Glow Plus to be successful it is essential that a unified model of governance be adopted."

The group, which includes teachers, recommends a single Scotland-wide policy on web-filtering in schools.

And Glow's successor should make even technophobes feel confident: "Glow Plus must be so easy to use that no training is required before use."

Education secretary Michael Russell said: "It is extremely important to me that schools can harness the power of technology for learning, keep pace with rapidly-evolving developments and that we speak the language that young people speak online."

Mr Russell has retained the original excellence group as a reference point and asked a smaller group "to consider the report and the feasibility of the recommendations".

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henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk

ONLINE REACTION TO THE REPORT

"I think it's a great piece of work and it's good to see that they've worked hard to get this out quickly in order to allow progress to be made rapidly."

Fearghal Kelly

"We are already years behind the times, we have just been put back even further".

Fraser Shaw

"I still wonder whether even the Glow Plus model will be reactive, responsive and open enough to really keep up with emerging Web 2.0 tools."

James McEnaney

"The government has invested time with great educators and they have delivered."

Robert Drummond.

Photo credit: Alamy

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