East Lothian’s newly qualified teachers (NQTs) will be able to stay in touch, support one another and find their programme documentation, via their own Glow Group this session.
Their induction training before the session starts includes a day-long session on use of ICT in East Lothian schools. This year, the session will include some time on Glow. Of course, we wanted that to be hands-on and relevant, which is where the idea of a Glow Group to support the NQTs came from. By doing this, we’re hoping to make it easier for them to get their heads round what Glow is all about through practical experience.
So far the site has been populated with some sample links, Glow Meet, Glow Chat and a couple of documents from the Probationer Programme. It’s hoped that the group will have plenty of ideas for further improvements.
It’s become even easier to get publishing on eduBuzz.org following today’s upgrade to Version 1.5.1 of its WordPress MU software.
The interface redesign is the result of a lot of work by the WordPress community, including extensive usability testing. First impressions are good, but we’ll need to do some checks to see how students and staff react. Some differences bloggers will notice:
- a more up-to-date appearance
- a new arrangement for adding media
- the confusing term “slug” has been replaced with Permalink:…/ Edit
- a full-screen editor facility has been added
- “Timestamp” has been replaced with Publish immediately…/Edit
Testing is still under way, but so far at least things seem to be going well. An existing bug with creation of new blogs, which was leading to login difficulties under Internet Explorer, has also been fixed with this update, although a few existing faulty blogs still need to be fixed.
Update: There’s an issue with inserting images in posts. I’ve encountered it under Firefox, but have found it’s working OK under Internet Explorer 7. Thought things were going too well…
I’ve written a note on how to do this, which is on a separate page.
www.edubuzz.org was one of the early WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) sites. It started off with Version 1.0 Release Candidate 4 of the WPMU software. The way WPMU encoded tables within the database changed in later versions, and needed changed. This has proved an extremely time-consuming exercise, and the note is an attempt to save others some time if they encounter the same problem.
We’re noticing that staff new to Glow view it through the prism of their existing model of how the web works. Most of the time, that’s fine, but in some areas it can cause confusion. Clearly it’s better if we can avoid that confusion, and we’ve been talking today about how we might do that.
The catalyst for the discussion was a planning meeting today with Martin Brown and Karen-Ann MacAlpine of the Glow team for a probationer training session on Glow in August. We expect the probationers will be very experienced internet users, so might be particularly at risk of this confusion.
So where is confusion occurring? Some examples are:
- an expectation that as it’s web-based, it will be possible to search for content with a search engine
- an expectation that if you’ve access to a Glow Group, you’ll be able to see it in your list of Glow Groups
- an expectation that because it’s a private intranet, you won’t be able to hyperlink to things from the public web
What is it that’s happening? We’re presenting people with a very large, complex system which is completely new to them. We do it in relatively short training sessions of only an hour or two, inevitably fairly jam-packed with new terminology. To help make sense of it all, people will use their “best fit” mental model – in this case the one they’ve built up over recent years of how internet stuff works, and – mostly – that’s fine. The confusion occurs, though, when something happens that doesn’t make sense in terms of that model.
What might we do about it? Today we were discussing the possibility of creating some big, simple, “building block” diagrams that could help speed teachers through the process of developing their own mental model of “how Glow works”. We talked, for example, about maybe showing Glow as an iceberg, with just a little bit – the web publishing facility – above the waterline and in public view.
Building the Curriculum 3, a recent framework for developing learning and teaching approaches to Curriculum for Excellence, is a thought-provoking read. For those keen to get on with it, it provides a very comprehensive checklist of dos and don’ts, and it’s generally quite readable.
That’s not to say it would win any prizes from the plain English people. Some parts would have benefited from more ruthless editing, such as this on Principles of Curriculum Design:
The principles of curriculum design apply at all stages of learning with different emphases at different stages. The principles must be taken into account for all children and young people. They apply to the curriculum both at an organisational level and in the classroom and in any setting where children and young people are learners. Further consideration to applying these principles is given in the sections of this paper looking at the different stages of learning.
There’s much less mention of vocational education than I’d expected, but maybe my expectations had been raised by recently reading the OECD report on Quality and Equity in Scotland’s Schools. The OECD’s recommendation for a bolder and broader approach to vocational studies in schools is mentioned, and the entitlement specified. But as it’s almost completely absent from the rest of the paper, the net effect is to tilt the status balance once more towards the academic subjects, which is a pity. Peter Peacock was right.
The biggest concern with it has to be, though, where the resources are going to come from to get the planning done. The paper makes it clear that the responsibility lies with schools and partners to produce these programmes, but this is happening just when schools are under more efficiency pressure than ever.
Perhaps one way to square this circle might be to break with our normal practice of a few expert people doing most of the work, and engage a lot of people in doing a small amount each, using collaborative software such as wikis? That would reduce the barriers to involvement to an absolute minimum. Wikipedia, after all, started out as the expert-written Nupedia. After only 12 articles were published in the first year, the wiki was introduced to help create content more rapidly.
If you’re interested in understanding Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, take the time to read the recent OECD Review of Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland: it’s available on Google Books.
It’s not a quick read, at 167 pages, but reading it is time well spent. When I changed career to education over 3 years ago, I found it was relatively easy to find out about the individual parts of the Scottish education jigsaw, particularly from web sites, but hard to get the big picture. Even Moray House’s excellent Returning to Teaching Course, although it got me hooked on a new career, just made me realise how little I knew about the way the bigger picture had changed.
I can’t recommend this paper enough to anyone who wants to know the full story, and maybe gets a bit frustrated reading the kind of “bite-sized chunks” typical of web sites and marketing materials. It is an excellent help in making sense of Curriculum for Excellence, particularly by putting it into an international context. It doesn’t pull any punches about the urgency, either.
If you’ve not heard of it, there’s a one-page summary on the OECD site.
A number of challenges remain, however. Notwithstanding the overall success rate of the Scottish educational system, gaps in achievement have opened up, beginning in primary education and widening throughout junior secondary years. Another concern is the increasing number of young people leaving school with minimal qualifications, a tendency found amongst students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
The OECD report, by an international team of examiners from Australia, Belgium, Finland and New Zealand, gives a series of recommendations on how such challenges can be met.
For this to be freely available to everyone working in Scottish education is wonderful, even if it’s not possible to copy text or print it. I hope as many people as possible take the time to read it.
Of course, it’s very unlikely to be read by students in schools. Yet there’s a lot in it that could be of huge value to many. But how do we bridge that gap?