February 19, 2007

Can schools innovate with a national intranet on the horizon?

It's great to see that Neil has been doing something constructive instead of blogging (we were missing you, Neil) by setting up a new school website (yet to go online) and (this is the exciting bit) a new Perth Academy blogging system on Word Press MultiUser.

WPMU is what we've used in East Lothian to create the eduBuzz service, and it forms one element of about a half dozen. The other things we have linked up or are in the process of wrapping up are:

Neil has been doing some additional work installing and populating a Moodle virtual learning environment to help his students and staff organise their Higher English revision materials. If I remember Higher English from my own days at schools it appeared to be very content heavy, but required a huge amount of practice of skills, too, if you were to stand a chance of getting the best grades. Organisation of the content was half the battle so that you had time to practice the skills. Moodle should be a great help for students in organising that content and planning their time.

East Lothian also has a rather mature Moodle service for its employees' professional development. Well, all employees except for education, that is. Education employees make up half the council payroll yet, with a national intranet and CPD portal on the horizon, it's difficult for the education department to get excited about learning to use another system in the interim, even if Glow is a relative unknown for most teachers in terms of what it can do and how that shapes up to blogging and Moodle combinations for tracking professional development.

I am fairly confident that, as we stand in February 2007, the CPD element of the Glow portal will impress traditionalists and bloggers alike for its versatility and cleverness (though it hasn't even been built yet, of course). But there are two points I don't get yet:

  1. What of Local Authority wide Moodles, VLEs and online learning platforms? Moodle's already being used successfully in places like Aberdeen City and, now, Perth. Edinburgh City has spent years populating its StudyWiz network. I use my blog to track my professional development and del.icio.us to share my resources. What are these more innovative education departments doing with the material that has been built up over the years? Transferring, starting from scratch or a mixture of both?
  2. What about the potential to integrate rather than separate? How are Local Authorities' non-education departments feeling about the potential lack of integration of development tracking and learning resources? Sure, very little integration currently exists but it seems that we are moving further along the separatist route than the unified approach. There must be something that the Education Department of a Local Authority can offer for the lifelong learning of non-Education Department employees.

It's something that we are not sure of in East Lothian so I'm pretty certain other Local Authorities haven't thought of things in this light, either. Or if they have, they haven't blogged about it ;-) Given the amount of work going into Glow 1.0 I don't think it can be added to the list of "Things To Do" at the moment, either, so there's a great potential here to help contribute to Glow 2.0 - a great opportunity for schools to innovate without having to create tools themselves.

What I'm talking about here is lifelong education and how Glow fits into that. Should we be finding ways in the future to integrate the learning and tracking of development of our Council solicitors, construction workers and park wardens? Or should we continue to concentrate on improving the lot of our 3-18 year olds?


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As a teacher who's just started out, I decided I'd create my own Moodle site. Obviously the geekyness of the setup appealed to me too. But the joy of that for me is that wherever I go I have my materials on hand. No need to worry about transferring them - they are already there. Just input a new class list and that's me ready to go with a new class.

It would be great if the blogging community encouraged the set up of Moodles for each subject - everyone could pile their resources into them easily. My plan was to set up a quick and easy Moodle host, but I've not had time. Would be a great thing though, to get materials up, both normal PowerPoint/Word docs and standard format quiz and lesson files. I presume these will be importable to Glow. If not it should be easy to write a translator to do so.

Anyway, going off on another geek-tangent so I'll stop there!

I think your geek tangent is precisely the answer - we need a way for those who have innovated to transfer quickly into Glow.

Even better, a way to sync their materials if they want them available on the www as well as the intranet of Glow. If there were such a tool then it would make it easier for people to operate in a global learning theatre, instead of a purely Scottish one.

Do you think it's possible?

The short answer is 'it should be possible'.

Both Glow and Moodle operate according to SCORM 2004 compliance, so it *should* be possible to import content directly. Until we see it in the flesh though, this is speculation.

For many LAs, I suspect they will operate two systems for some time. This means they still have access to the content they have already created, and can begin to make use of the national dimension of Glow.

This is unfortunate though, as we would all benefit from greater sharing.

Thanks for the heads up!

I wish I had time to fully investigate Pageflakes... I'm a great fan of Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com), but am very impressed at what East Lothian are doing with Pageflakes.

There is a sense that I'm reinventing (or pre-empting?) the wheel given that GLOW is just round the corner, but it's reassuring to know that GLOW will be SCORM compliant.

My main priority is to make the tools available to my pupils to enable them to achieve the best results they can... everything else is secondary (no pun intended... even if I do quite like it!)

Luckily there's lots of room for innovation at school and local authority level, as Glow won't employ every technology and no-one would dare suggest that all the best brains work at LTS.

My preferred prospect: enthusiastic teachers working all over the place to develop things their students will appreciate.


Short answer, why not?
Obviously EL think it is worthwhile innovating, I'd be surprised if you were just filling a short term gap Ewan? eduBuzz doesn't look like a short term project.
One of the interesting things about the recent development on the web is the idea of 'small parts loosely joined'.
Hopefully glow will eventually be a larger cog that will mesh with existing and yet to be invented. RSS and opml should help along with any other standards.

I think that schools and LAs definitely can innovate, but wanted to ask the question to get consensus. Since the beginning there has been doubt voiced by some over whether it is worth LAs continuing to do stuff when Glow might/might not provide some of it.

One of the reasons I'm so keen on anything with an RSS feed on it is because it should, in theory, be easy to suck through to anywhere else.

eduBuzz is not short term, insofar as one can know whether technology won't be superseded really soon ;-) I'm also convinced that LTS is in this for the long-haul, too, to see how we can use technology in ways that will enhance Glow into the future.

It's just reassuring to see that some other people also feel that optimistic, too!

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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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