If I ruled the world…

…a few ideas to help develop Glow and Technology across Learning in Scotland today.

There are great things happening across the Scottish education sector with emerging technologies and we need to embrace these opportunities.  The point of emerging technology and it’s application in the classroom is to improve the leaning experience and outcomes for learners AND to allow the teacher more time to focus on how to teach rather than on what to teach.  Where would I put that national focus right now? If I ruled the world what would I be doing? Here is a wee list of the key developments that I think we should be supporting nationally:

Glow

Yes, that’s right I said Glow. The last few months have seen some key developments in the national online service and, although many of issues I covered in previous posts as still there, there are now some real “killer apps” in GlowO365 – these are services that I believe solve significant problems that teachers experience and give our learners and practitioners “must have” reasons to return to Glow.

Skydrive Pro

Skydrive Pro on iPad for Glow
Skydrive Pro on iPad for Glow

Skydrive Pro gives EVERYONE in Glow 25 Gb of online storage. That is 250 times what a typical learner receives on a school network server. It’s enough space for me to store 10 years worth of learning and teaching resources that I’ve created and its free, secure in Glow and accessible from anywhere using my web browser or mobile device (there is a fab Skydrive Pro for Business app for iPad that works really well).

You can setup Skydrive Pro using the Skydrive Pro app for Windows to sync a “School” folder from your home computer.

Everything you save in that folder will automatically go into your secure Glow Skydrive. And, if you want to, you can share your documents and content with others so that you can collaborate. You choose who to collaborate with by clicking “SHARE” and then adding their Glow email addresses / usernames. Simple 🙂

Newsfeed

The Newsfeed in Glow Office 365
The Newsfeed in Glow Office 365

I have in the past wondered where the other users in Glow were?  What were they doing? Had someone added something to a Glow group? Did someone update that key document I needed? With the newsfeed in Office 365 you know what is happening in Glow.

You can choose to follow users (just like you would on Twitter or Facebook). But it doesn’t just stop at users. You can follow a particular Glow site to be notified when it is updated or receives a contribution and you can follow documents so you know when they are updated.  I think this feature has huge potential.  You no longer have to pull Glow content to you, Glow pushes content to you, notifying you when the things that matter to you change.

Newsfeed App
Newsfeed App

And, if you want to go “off the reservation”, you can click to view what EVERYONE in Glow is doing. This is how I found the fab Minecraft LearnCat site (and evidence that learners have found this feature too. 🙂 And there is a newsfeed app for Apple devices and WIndows Phone (Android is coming sometime in the future).

Sharing/Productivity tools/Realtime Editing

This month Microsoft made my favourite feature of Google Docs part of the Office 365 Web Apps. The Web Apps are the online browser based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote (a note taking / recording tool).  In the Word and Excel web apps (I haven’t tested PowerPoint or OneNote yet!) two or more users can edit the same document at the same time!

You’ll see the other users editing the document (different coloured cursors fly across the screen) and the changes others make will be instantly reflected in the version you are editing. This a fantastic feature and offers huge opportunities for collaboration.

So, now you can forget email documents to people for edits or using USB sticks to move your documents from home to school. With your documents in a single place in the Glow cloud, you will always have the most recent version available when you want on the device you want.

Email/Calendar

Glow has world class email in Outlook. And you have another 25 Gb of storage just for your email. That is huge! And you have a calendar tool that will let you plan activities, share events, invite others to meetings/appointments and more.

Feature month!

This months feature is...
This months feature is…

So, how do we get the word out about these fab features in Glow? We can’t focus on everything at once – this would swamp users.  We need a way to focus our national and local resources on specific features of Glow. We can then use our national resources and local authority support staff to share the message about Glow in a managed way.  I’d do this with Feature Months! Education Scotland could coordinate with key contacts to identify the key features of new Glow/O365 for example:

  • Month 1: Skydrive Pro
  • Month 2: Realtime Collaboration and Sharing
  • Month 3: Newsfeed and Notifications
  • Month 4: Email and Calendar
  • ….

Education Scotland provide resources to support the feature: learning activities, video tutorials, links to apps for devices etc. LAs share this with schools and could co-ordinate their own in-house CPD to support the feature in that month (I have to say that many of these features are intuitive to use and training won’t be a major requirement for most users). And linking the features of Glow to resources and content to support CfE would be even better!  

And why a month? This gives busy teachers time to dip in and out of the feature, try it and look for further support if they need it/want it.  It also means that the limited number of national staff available to support Glow can be effectively deployed to support the feature month across local authorities and other partners (such as ITE).

Open Scotland

While I was speaking the Holyrood Events Conference on Primary Education: A Brighter Future today another group of educators where meeting just down the road at University of Edinburgh discussing the current work on “Open” everything in Scottish Education.  Key features of this meeting were Open Scotland, Massive Open Online Courses, Open Repositories (for Open Educational Resources) and Open Badges.

Open Scotland is an effort to develop open educational policies across Scotland’s Education sectors. These policies will facilitate sharing and remix, reuse and repurposing of educational resources. Open Educational Resources are a key to the future support of Curriculum for Excellence and National Qualifications however in the primary and secondary sectors across Scotland there is limited coordination of this sharing and little in the way of agreement with local authorities to adopt OER.

Re:source Logo
Re:source Logo

The FE sector however has taken major steps forward and has developed a repository for shared content. Re:source is a great example of what can be done when educators share their work. And it’s open…you can view resources without a login.

So, our national resources to support CfE should follow this OER model and not be locked away behind a Glow login. Sometimes it’s better to share! And we really need to encourage and support our teachers to share into a central repository as well. With a little organisation and planning who knows what we could get!

Open Badges

Open Badges for All
Open Badges for All

Sticking on the subject of all things Open, OpenBadges are another “Open” area that has huge potential.  What are Open Badges? Well, in its most basic form, an Open Badge is a digital reward which can be stored inside a student’s ‘digital backpack’. You get a badge for completing something, doing something, meeting some criteria.

And badges are a new way to recognise skills and progress. OpenBadges is a framework for awarding badges,  developed by Mozilla (who make the Firefox web browser). I’ve been using OpenBadges in a variety of ways for over 12 months (JISC did a case study of how I was using badges to incentivise sharing and collaboration in CompEdNet.

openbadges-600pxThere is a Scottish OpenBadges group (OBSEG), which includes key partners: SQA, JISC, Education Scotland, CASScotland and many more. If I was in charge, I’d be spending a lot of time planning and rolling out OpenBadges to the schools sector to recognise learners’ achievements.  This could be a great feature in Glow. Badges could be added to a learners’ eportfolios, providing recognition of a wide variety of skills. Bring on the badges!

360 Safe (Scotland)

360Safe
360Safe (Scotland)

How ready is your school for the digital age? What policies and practice do you have in place with regard to Internet Safety and Responsible Use?  360Safe (Scotland) is a free web site, rewritten for Scottish education by the South West Grid for Learning, with funding from the Scottish Government, which provides an online self review tool to assist schools to review their e-safety policy and practice.

Once you have registered and started to review you establishments current position, the tool will provide you with helpful guidance on how to improve your policy statements, involve your learners and teachers in the process and develop practice that is “aspirational and innovative.”

I’ve always believed that we can’t police the Internet for everyone all the time and that developing positive behaviour and a sensible approach to e-safety was the best way to protect young people from inappropriate content and activity online. 360Safe provides a tool to help educators develop e-safety in a very positive way.

We need every school to engage with 360Safe. ISRU has never been more important.

And there you have it…

For me these are key areas that we really do need to be making more effort in. Glow is getting better (and will continue to improve as the new GlowFutures service is developed by Scottish Government), OER is happening already, across the world, and Scotland really should be a leader in this area across all education sectors, OpenBadges have enormous potential to change how we credit and motivate learning and 360Safe provides key support to help schools develop policy and practice in the area of Internet Safety and Responsible use.

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