In January this year we had what was hailed as ‘unprecedented’ weather conditions including lots and lots of snow. James Clay down in darkest Gloucestershire wrote this blog post about how he thought we should have made more use of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) and other parts of ‘tInterweb to keep lessons going. In the post he linked to David Sugden who told how his wife let everyone know that her course and ideas for work to be done during the ‘Big Freeze’ was available online but no-one came. No-one logged on and started keeping up with their course because, as he put it;
There is no culture amongst the learners…to visit online learning activities at times like these.
Granted in his wife’s case her students were probably burdened with the extra children in their care that resulted (they were nursery workers/managers) but the point is valid. Later on, a teacher from the Scottish Borders was being hailed as a modern educator for putting up work on GLOW from her holiday in Portugal where she was trapped because of Old Smoky in Iceland.
I wonder if ALL her students actually logged on and completed the work? 😎
Meanwhile another teacher’s blog post here also shows how technology has changed in just a few short years and made it easier to pass information to students and parents as well as staff in the event of bad weather for example. For many schools (unless you’re in Moray where they still block twitter and other ways of telling parents what’s going on…) using the Internet and especially messages to mobile phones or emails means they can notify parents and students quickly and efficiently and in good time of things that will affect their day or their son/daughter. I’m talking about things other than the school being closed here as we obviously have such things such as GROUPCALL for emergency stuff.
I often set my students homework or tasks to be completed online as I’m a great believer in Alan November’s maxim ‘Don’t hand it in, publish it‘ and the results are often simply incredible. One S3 last week created a fantastic video about the Roger McGough poem ‘A Brown paper carrier bag’ which I’ll be using in future years as an opening to the unit. The effort and PRIDE he took, whilst obviously made easier by the time saving devices available in software and hardware compared to my generation, must have been considerable. Much better than a scribbled the night before on a scrap piece of paper riddled with spelling mistakes piece of work.
Which brings me to GLOW.
I’ve spent an hour on Thursday and Friday last week creating new accounts for staff and changing/issuing passwords (a) because Education HQ still hasn’t authorised our IT Technician to be an ASM and thus allow him to create and issue passwords etc and (b) people keep forgetting their passwords because they are simply NOT using GLOW in any shape or form. There are several reasons claimed for this when I tackle them. These range from ‘too much effort to produce stuff for 45 minutes‘. ‘GLOW’s interface is far to unwieldy and takes multiple clicks to get even the simplest tasks done‘ and ‘I am not allowed into all these groups that claim to have lots of resources and it take ages to get access. In some cases they never reply‘
Many teachers feel strongly that Web 2 tools are better, faster and more effective. For example Google Docs is about to be rolled out across all their schools by Norfolk County Council and they’re not the only ones. I’ve another who spent ages creating movies of how to answer exam questions but it is so fiddly to get them onto GLOW which the kids don’t visit that it was faster and easier to upload to the school website and create a page with all the videos on. One click and they get to the department page, one click and they start watching the movie.
Other problems include the lack of hardware which means the vast majority of our kids can’t access IN SCHOOL. Problems with authentication and the recent service unreliability at weekends also causes access problems at home for students and staff. How do you tell schools to put everything on GLOW including daily bulletins etc and then expect kids to access them if the thing falls down again or there are not enough PCs to let each students get access at least once a day for about 15 minutes to read all the information they’ve been told to? Perhaps the Aberdeenshire model of allowing personal laptops into schools and access to the wireless network via a VPN would work?
There is STILL not wide enough use or interest in GLOW by parents and others. Indeed there are NO parents on our GLOW.
Given that GLOW is itself in the news recently (TESS article) being told by Education Directors that it ‘must improve’ how do we sort all these things? Potential is high but without Local Authority support and hardware access problems we are hitting the wall to many times to enable interest and maintain it with staff, students and parents. In my own authority they have scrapped the two GLOW support teachers. Then they realised they needed them and scraped up the budget for another year by which time the original two had gone back to school or moved to LTS. Now after advertising twice they STILL have no volunteers as the job only runs for another few months and people aren’t interested.
My problem is compounded by the fact that I’m the GLOW Mentor, ASM and SCA because I wanted to make it a success but feel like throwing in the towel until things are sorted. Far too much work and admin for too little return if there are only a few teachers using it. After all I can do anything GLOW can better and faster using my own domain and classroom website once it was unblocked (again). The problem is that such a system is perhaps not as secure and safe as GLOW markets itself to be. Or is it?
UPDATE: Alan Hamilton, acclaimed National Treasure and all round good guy as well as something to do with GLOW has a post about this very topic here