Horses for Courses: Choosing on-line learning tools in East Lothian schools

First East Lothian had the blog publishing system. Then along came Glow, Scotland’s schools network. And now – as if that wasn’t enough -we’ve now added an Edubuzz “Google Applications for Education” system. How do this lot fit together? Will they all continue? If you’re struggling to make sense of it all, read on: this note is for you.

Before looking at the tools, let’s look at the way the world is changing. ICT in schools used to centre on the computers, and the programs we installed. That’s all changed; access to network resources like search engines, web sites and communication and collaboration tools is now more important. The web is no longer just a place we go to read things; we also now expect to contribute.

Enabling schools to prepare students for this world was the reason for Glow. By providing a national system, free to councils, it aimed for learner equity. Glow provides a toolset for learning, communication and collaboration. But it had to be acceptable to all, so is conservative in its design. It doesn’t yet, for example, include easy web publishing. Popular features include web conferencing, free access to high-quality subscription sites and national staff networking via Glow Groups. Almost all schools have now had introductory training, and we’ll support you if you want to explore Glow and use it with your classes. Accounts are available for all staff and students, and it’s being used in most schools.

Edubuzz blogs
Our Edubuzz blog system started with an attempt to improve sharing between schools and learners in East Lothian, and has grown to become a leading education web publishing system. It’s easy to use, yet powerful, and has been adopted by almost all schools. Where Glow is currently almost completely private, Edubuzz blogs are on the public Internet. That world audience can be important in engaging students with authentic tasks. They’re also interactive so allow schools to open up new dialogues with parents, students and others worldwide. Glow is being refreshed to include blogs,  and these are expected to become available during 2010. Meantime, Edubuzz blogs fill the gap.

Google Applications
Glow’s email system wasn’t ready in time for cessation of the earlier commercial service, and didn’t meet some secondary needs. The contingency plan, an Edubuzz “Google Applications for Education” Mail system, successfully met school email needs at no cost. It soon became clear that its other components, Sites, Calendar and Documents, enabled introduction of new, highly engaging, forms of collaborative learning activities.

• Documents: enable students to collaborate simultaneously on word-processing documents, presentations or spreadsheets in or out of school

• Calendars: create and share multiple calendars and track tasks

• Sites: create attractive private or public web sites in minutes, and easily embed documents, interactive forms, videos etc.

Experience has shown these tools to be very popular, not least because ease of use is excellent. Staff and student logins are available on request.

Note: This paper was originally issued with the ELC ICT Newsletter in Nov 09, but has been amended to bring it up to date in Mar 2010.

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