September 28, 2006

East Lothian Glowers... well, has a Glow meeting

Will the word play ever give up on our national intranet? I don't know. Don't care. I quite enjoy having fun with it.

East Lothian Glow mentors met yesterday in the totem-poled Gothenburg Hotel, Prestonpans, to see how they will be involved in the national intranet. What will glow mentors do? They’ll be encouraging colleagues to use Glow and supporting them in sharing and collaborating. The infrastructure brought by Glow will help bring people together a little easier than we currently can with traditional blogs, wikis and podcasts, grouping people geographically à la Plazes or by interest à la Yahoo! groups.

Img_2822 The great thing for East Lothian colleagues is that two of our schools, Knox Academy and Kings Meadow primary school, will be part of the pilot from November, feeding into the improvement of services. From January next year the collaborative tools like Marratech video conferencing, instant messaging, shared whiteboards and sharing areas will be let out of the bag one by one for East Lothian staff to pilot. Importantly, they’ll also be the guinea pigs for the training materials.

The kind people at Glow will be organising some “educational activities” for the pilots (sounds very like Scout camp, now ;-), to help everyone get to know the portal and tools.

What sounds highly beneficial are the residential courses on offer for mentors – or video-conferenced sessions, using the Glow VC tool, if they can’t make it. The Masterclass programme used a similar programme, looking at scenarios for technology use: what does that English teacher with one networked computer do with a national intranet? This programme had some success, but a lot of folk went back to school and did not ‘cascade’ their knowledge and make a long-term commitment to training colleagues. Some could not because their school management failed to offer support to those individuals: even if it’s just leaving some of the extra non-contact time to support colleagues instead of giving cover for an absent art teacher.

If the Glow training is to work effectively, the Glow mentors need to make a long-term commitment to the network and supporting colleagues. I think, from the ‘togetherness’ and community I am feeling this morning, that this is going to happen. Correction: this is happening.

Even more important, though, school leaders need to support the Glow mentors in a way that seemed lacking in the past with Masterclassers: give them a break when it comes to covering other classes, involve them in IT decisions of the school, ask them for advice on exploiting the tools, create dates in the calendar for them to speak to the whole staff. Where a head teacher had gone through the HT’s version of Masterclass, Leadership for Learning, this was something we saw in good schools. But is this a picture that resembles your school yet? I also know that some  people disagree with this in principle, since it drives a gap between 'them' and 'us', the non-Glowers and the Glowers. And that leads to a lot of glowering. Oh dear, we're back to the word play again.

But what should we do in a world where anyone can participate, where anyone can pretend to be an expert or, even worse, be taken for one?


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Well said Ewan. I like the idea that schools should start taking the Glow Mentors a little more seriously. I think this is an important point to bear in mind if Glow is to avoid the Masterclass scenario.
One thing that strikes me is that there is a tendency for secondary teachers to take the lead in a lot of these initiatives, yet I strongly believe that it is the multi-discipline primary teachers that have more to offer. They are much more used to thinking about cross-curricular topics and this is partly what Glow and ACE are about.
In the long run, I suspect that it will be the primary schools that will take the lead because there is a much stronger sense of them working together than the traditional secondary school compartmentalisation which was one of the contributory factors (I believe) to the inadequacies in the Masterclass plan.

It's interesting you point out the primary-secondary imbalance because in ELC there are many more secy teachers than primary in the Glow Mentors scheme. I'll be honest - I see the role of Glow Mentors as very much an initial thrust. We should have many more 'mentors' within a year if we have been successful in our plan. Most of them will not have (will not want to have) a job title that says so. This is what will make Glow work long-term. If we have Glow clique then the project will be resented, much in the same way as the cliques of masterclass.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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