Saturday, 8 March 2008

Connecting Glow, AifL and CfE

AifL Fringe Event Saturday 08/03/08
On the train from Dundee to Edinburgh Waverly, I had time to read through my Glow presentation and focus my comments for the Associated Schools Groups of teachers I was about to speak to. I was aware that quite a few teachers in the audience may not have seen Glow in their Local Authority. The Edinburgh Conference Centre (ECC) is just off the Royal Mile, next to the UoE (formerly Moray House). I was invited by Rosemary Delaney (AifL) and Myra Young (AifL), to this, my second AifL Fringe event to talk about networking, collegiality and collaboration with Glow.

The ECC was easy to find; only a stones throw from where I spent many hours reflecting on educational and organisational theory in the late 90s. I was very interested, at that time, in new theorys about literacy, intelligence and social constructivist approaches to learning. I was studying, then, part time for an MSC Ed in Edinburgh. Edinburgh has agreat national and international reputation for educational research. Those high standards can also be seen in the three national programs, Assessment is for Learning (AifL), Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and Glow. These three big programs are still quite new to schools (Glow more so) and they have yet to be welded together in by working teachers. If this work is successful, they (classroom teachers) will take Scotland back to the future of educational change. Change that is not just based on financial investment but also on value shifts. A move to ideas of teacher autonomy and collegialty, and a change in ownership of learning from teachers to pupils. Teachers are increasingly expected to be much more reflective: to use good question techniques and to encourage questioning in young learners. Part of this new autonomy is effective justification for actions: teachers must justify their thinking with reference to good educational theory.

Professional autonomy and collegiality are central to the success of AiFl, CfE and Glow. AifL is essential for Glow because it needs the same teachers to embed new (digital) practices in schools. Glow is a means to digitally upskill teachers but most importantly, Glow will assist teachers with other changes in Scottish education. Glow can provide improved access to information for teachers and learners in a time of accelerated cultural and social change. That does not mean it should be used as a place to stuff facts and figures. Glow will support the communities of professional learning that will be central to the development of AifL and CfE.

My presentation was about using Glow, and the communication tools in it, to support professional learning by creating professional knowledge through collaboration between classroom teachers. I talked briefly about the context, functionality and purposes of using communication tools like Glow messenger, Glow user search, discussion boards and Glow meet, the web conferencing tool. The room was full of teachers who wanted to push forward changes in Scottish education, and they were eager to get their hands on new tools to do the job. It was obvious that Glow would be in demand and that my colleagues in the Glow team can look to these ASG teachers for good examples of how to use Glow in the schools.

I stayed for the AifL and CfE presentations that followed. there were some excellent insights. I enjoyed listening to Carolyn Hutchison(AifL). Her messages about assessment and in particular her emphasis on values, 'we value what we assess' message, were powerful. Dan Mcginty (CfE) was here with a team from CfE . I gained most from a presentation about Literacy and English Outcomes. Parallel outcomes and multimodal text were two particulary useful ideas for me ( I will leave you to find out more for yourself ). I hope to inject these two ideas into my Glow/CfE presentations at future Mentor training, because they assist me in welding ideas of digital literacy, literacy across the curriculum and embedding ICT into our new approaches to teaching and learning. I enjoyed working with my LTS colleagues from floor 8. I like the way the AifL team model what they say and adopt an intelligent collegial approach. I am now looking forward to my next collaboration with AifL................. ?

Monday, 3 March 2008

The John Muir Trail

It was great working with Glow mentors over two days in East Lothian last week. There was as you might expect; a wide range of backgrounds and a mixture of accents in the room. I heard Welsh, Scottish, English and American accents. East lothian is a small and rapidly changing local authority. It has a highly developed learning community in its teachers who have a vision to translate the potential in Glow for e-learning, into exceptional learning experiences for children. There is such a high standard of digital literacy among staff in this authority that it constitutes an advantage in digital and educational capital. This is a geographical area with a rich mixture of old and new. There is mix of coastal and market towns, such as Musselburgh, Haddington and North Berwick which provide room for an expanding commuter population and retirees, on the edge of Edinburgh.
I was in Prestonpans, almost in view of Aurthur's seat to deliver mentor training. Over the two days I demonstrated how to plan, create and populate a Glow group. Having taught Intermediate 2 Geography and People in the Landscape, it was an ideal opportunity to draw on my classroom experience and to use Glow to model something I could not imagine until recently. I was now able to show how a Glow group could be used to enhance teaching and learning: for example in teaching difficult concepts such as, wilderness, conservation, beauty, and conflict. John Muir (1838-1914) was born in Dunbar and became the father of the National Park system in the USA. It is ironic that Scotland did not have it's own National Parks until 2002. Some would say we have been been just as slow to integrate ICT into schools in Scoltand. Many English schools have been using online learning spaces more extensively and for longer. However, Scotland not only has the largest and most spectacular National Park in the UK, with the Cairngorms NP, it now has the largest educational intranet and most connected national educational system, with Glow.
East Lothian will very soon be exploring the possibilities of accessing emerging technologies in Glow groups and building on their digital experience with edubuzz and bloggers such as Tess Watson, Don Ledingham and Ollie Brae. These teachers are part of a confident teaching community who do not fear the exponential growth of information or new technology. East Lothian mentors started to create a variety of interesting and useful Glow groups which could offer new ways of being creative and participative for teachers, pupils and parents. These are exciting times in East Lothian. I hear there is a plan (watch this space) to create a Glow group and use it to assist with an existing exchange between schools in the USA and East Lothian. To connect a school in Dunbar, the birth place of John Muir, with a school in Yosemite Valley, the first National Park in the world, using virtual learning tools that can be found in a Glow group: The John Muir glow group?