Who needs to go to school when you have Glow?

15th January 2010 at 00:00
Intranet saves pupils and staff from being frozen out of their lessons

Freezing temperatures, coupled with heavy snow, have prevented some pupils and staff in the north of Scotland getting to school.

But thanks to Glow, the schools' digital intranet, learning is continuing for hundreds of youngsters.

The roads in some parts of Aberdeenshire have been impassable and the ice treacherous, says Anna Rossvoll, a Curriculum for Excellence officer responsible for implementing Glow in the authority. Mrs Rossvoll lives on a farm near Oldmeldrum, which is just minutes by car from her office at Inverurie High.

Nevertheless, last week she was snowed in, like many teachers and children in Aberdeenshire and around a dozen other Scottish local authorities.

"It's just the sheer amount of snow," she says. "I don't think I can remember seeing as much before - it's over the top of my wellies."

Mrs Rossvoll made this discovery when planning tasks for pupils to undertake via Glow. She had hoped to ask them to measure the depth of the snow using their wellies as a marker. However, a trip into her own garden revealed that even adult wellies were not high enough. Refusing to be thwarted, she has now tweaked the challenge; pupils must come up with their own method of measuring how deep the snow on their doorstep is.

Every Glow account-holder in the authority - all staff are signed up and most pupils - have access to the tasks, all of which are linked to the extreme weather.

One requires pupils to find out how long it takes to fill a cup with falling snow. They are then asked to weigh the snow and see if they get different volumes at different times of day. If they do, they have to put forward their theories as to why that might be.

"It's about setting up a science investigation and a challenge question for the pupils and letting them work out how they take that forward," explains Mrs Rossvoll.

Some of her early attempts led to crockery disappearing without a trace. "I put the cup outside for 45 minutes and in that time it became totally covered with snow - I still haven't found it."

Via Glow, children are also being encouraged to write weather reports and keep snow journals to bring on their descriptive language. Eventually, this may lead to poetry writing, she says.

There is a competition to see who can take the best close-up photograph of a snow flake, who can build the best snowman and who can find the longest icicle.

Children are also being encouraged to make their own symmetrical snowflakes out of paper by following step-by-step instructions posted by teachers.

"We've put up a clip about symmetry from the BBC's classroom clips," adds Mrs Rossvoll.

And using the aptly-named painting of a snow-covered woodland, "Afterglow", by Joseph Farquharson, as inspiration, Mrs Rossvoll hopes to encourage pupils to create their own winter wonderlands.

So far, the activities have attracted the attention of hundreds of Glow- users in Aberdeenshire. On Wednesday last week, 525 users accessed the group; by Thursday it was 811. Mrs Rossvoll hopes the snow will be good for Glow. "It has helped minimise the disruption to pupils' education but they are not just learning about literacy or numeracy or science; they are learning the ICT skills they need to make the most of Glow."

Guidance used by Aberdeenshire's Glow Bugs, P6 pupils who have been trained as Glow mentors, has been uploaded to the intranet and is being used to teach pupils how to upload photographs and video-clips to Glow and how to share their learning.

"Children are showing they can use Glow independently and responsibly," says Mrs Rossvoll. "This is an opportunity for the pupils to continue with their learning and also to start building a community online."

The children are spurred on to take part because they want to outdo each other, feels Mrs Rossvoll - a competitive spirit that might even be influencing the adults.

"We have had some very impressive snowmen being entered for the competition. I do wonder, though, if some parents have been involved," she adds.

Andrew Brown, head of Glow at Learning and Teaching Scotland, said: "This really shows what a powerful tool Glow is and how modern technology applied to education can connect teachers and learners across Scotland."

Letters, page 20.

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