December 28, 2007

2/5: The changing ways of the Public Sector

This is the second of five parts in a personal learning log review of 2007. It might be of  help to you, might not be. Bear with me, and normal service will be resumed...

Royal_channel People often say that the public sector is the last to move when it comes to innovation, especially on the web. This year has proven a little different.

In February I briefed the executive board of the regulatory body of Scottish teachers, the GTCS, on how social media and gaming could change the way that they communicated with teachers as well as make a difference in the classroom. By December, their website contains a host of blogs and the winning dissertation from the Bachelor of Education course discusses the educational impact of using Railroad Tycoon II in the classroom. Their draft guidelines on teacher professionalism and conduct, published on November 12th, are heartening in their mention of social networking as a potentially positive force when used appropriately in our personal lives. Progress indeed.

We're not always getting that point across, though. On February 10th, my brother explained how his sister Sunday paper broke a huge story 60 hours early on the web first, before selling the paper edition. I've not worked out (yet) how to get all of our Curriculum architects, civil servants and technology experts to think the same way about consultation and development of public services.

By the 19th I was wondering whether intranets, especially our national one Glow, would in fact only help to stifle innovative uses of technology by teachers at the chalkface. Since then, having been offered a new job in December, I'm part of a team innovating Glow over the next few years to bring what happens already in our classrooms into Glow, and, ultimately, provide classrooms with real innovations (i.e. truly new stuff) of which they could only perhaps dream. Just a tad challenging, then ;-), but possible with the help of the amazing education community on our doorstep.

On March 8th I had an opportunity to speak to senior politicians, civil servants, think tank members and Fellows of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). I appalled some of them with my take on the superb things technology is empowering the very young, the very old and the until-now-disenfranchised citizen: the teen. Yet, in late November I was invited by the Board of Trustees to become a Fellow of the RSA, for my work in trying to democratise education and society through social media. In December I became Ewan McIntosh FRSA, and hope to use it to apply some more social media thinking to the way the countries and regions of the UK are governed. Just goes to show, being diplomatic isn't always the best diplomacy.

On April 3rd the public education agency Learning and Teaching Scotland decided to concentrate on providing more video coverage of pedagogies and new technologies. We started with YouTube, BlipTV and Google Video, and ended the year with a successful BlipTV HDTV channel and our very own nascent Flash player, which should have universal unblocked usability in Scottish schools.

May 4th I was invited to contribute to the first of several summits looking at the future of Computing Studies in an age of ubiquitous social media, no-skill 'programming' and content creation. We started to look at how Computing Science and programming the tools rather than just using them is the most important language of tomorrow (and this, I hasten to add, coming from a linguist).

C4_logo On the other hand, May 10th saw DK and I making our joint-appearance debut at Channel 4, looking at how young people consume, produce and interact with online worlds and networks: they snack on their media.

This was one of many consultation days and meetings that Channel 4 Education had undertaken, leading to an amazing slate of programming being announced in December. The team has moved 80% of formerly educational television to the online socially networked environment inhabited by the audience. I've had great fun ooh-ing and ah-ing the C4 guys on in this risqué challenge as a member of the Education and New Media Advisory Board.

The theme of freeing up information became stronger as the year wore on, and August 18th brought the first moves in LTS towards using some of the information we hold to make schools and schooling more accessible. Just weeks later, by September 5th, we had many of our schools mapped out on Google Maps with more plans afoot to make this information useful for job seekers and probationers looking for schools to be placed in.

Connlive_2ndlife On September 18th we also launched the public sector's first foray into 'user generated content', in the form of Connected Live on the web and on SecondLife, a modest but promising branching out of the print magazine we publish. It brings together a large number of the most current and active bloggers in Scotland, with plans set to branch this out to a more international audience in the new year. We had been playing with the notion for two years in the Modern Foreign Languages Environment, which later this year on November 12th, was shortlisted and commended for its innovative elearning offering for teachers at the UK eLearning Awards.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, we saw campaigns run through social networks such as Bebo and Facebook managing to help keep over 20 schools open, safe from closure.

Even our First Minister gets it, starting his own blog on October 10th, and the Queen getting her own YouTube channel into gear in time for Christmas. Her 2007 Queen's Speech opened with an excerpt from fifty years ago, apt for describing things today:

That it is possible for some of you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us. Because of these changes I am not surprised that many people feel lost and unable to decide what to hold on to and what to discard. How to take advantage of the new life without losing the best of the old.

But it is not the new inventions which are the difficulty. The trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were old and outworn machinery.

When even the Queen uses YouTube, it's high time to recognise the importance of media literacy in our school curricula, so the Media Literacy Summit at Channel 4 on November 18thwas a great starting point, helping to influence the Byron Report on how the internet and video games influence young people. Taking the initiative, the Scots in the audience were quick to point out that neither the Byron Report nor the so-called 'UK Media Literacy Charter' have any currency north of the border, so we will be aiming in 2008 at producing something more agile and long-lasting that fits with the more open curriculum and more flexible (we hope) attitudes in Scotland.

Teachers, too, will have to get into the habit of publishing online, and not simply 'reflecting' on the job in the car on the way home, when on November 27th full blog integration was announced for the CPD (Professional Development) Reflect tool that will form part of every Scottish teacher's online toolkit in Glow, the national intranet.

I finished the year, on November 29th, thinking that, perhaps in certain respects, the public sector was streets ahead of the publishing industry when it came to innovation for impact's sake, when I addressed and discussed 21st Century publishing with leading houses in London.

With a new job finally undertaken on December 3rd, I've got a couple of years to prove it, but, as you'll see in the next part, some areas of Scotland with whom I was lucky enough to work this year have already got a grip on what sustainable social innovation is all about.

Related posts:
1/5: Hit or miss? Spotting innovation that's worth spotting 
3/5: eduBuzz: East Lothian online publishing increases 5000%
4/5: Building a business
5/5: Having a bash - social media gets social


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Looking forward to reading about your developments throughout the next year.

To you and the team at LTS: Best wishes for 2008!


Pleasure to share the stage with you my friend (on two occasions now and lets hope it's not our last) - here's to more opportunities to collaborate and impress/inspire people in 2008 ;-)



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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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