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Glowing Forwards

It’s no secret now that the job I was almost off to do was this one. I wasn’t able to go as my school wasn’t able to recruit a biology teacher to cover my post.

I mentioned this on twitter the other night and, just like any other time you mention the word “Glow” on twitter these days, this resulted in a fair amount of Glow-bashing. The point of my tweet was just to help promote the secondment to increase the chances of getting someone good into the role, and yet I’ve also somehow found myself being a defender of Glow on twitter. Which is odd, because I don’t use Glow. I use the twig videos which require a Glow login, but that’s it. I don’t log in for any other reason and my students don’t know their logins – most of them in fact have never heard of Glow.

Like most of the glow detractors on twitter, I use Edmodo and Google Apps instead of Glow. So, why on earth am I defending something I don’t use? For me there’s a difference between Glow as it is now, and what Glow could be in the future. When I’m defending Glow, I’m defending what it could become. I agree that edmodo and google apps are much more user-friendly than Glow as it is currently, and as a teacher I am glad that I am able to choose to use them (many can’t). At the same time though, I still see real potential in the Glow project. It will take a long time for free tools such as edmodo and google apps to move beyond the few, and some will never want to use them due to data security reasons. Scottish Government/Education Scotland carry a lot of weight with Local Authorities, School Management Teams and many teachers. If Glow were to become user-friendly I think it would penetrate Scottish classrooms & homes much more quickly than completely open source independent tools.

I also believe that despite the controversy about the cost of Glow so far, it still makes economical sense going forwards. Without it, I think schools and LAs will eventually begin paying for commercial alternatives to get the security and data privacy they often demand, and a better user experience than currently provided in Glow. At this point, the total cost to the public purse could become both vast and hidden. If each school or LA started paying yearly contracts to private companies, which already happens down south, surely the combined cost could easily outweigh a single combined solution?

Of course all of this assumes that the project will be well managed going forwards and produce what it is we need, and I can understand why many would be sceptical of this. I suppose the difference for me is that I’ve got to briefly hear how the project will be managed in the future and clearly have enough faith in what I’ve heard to have been prepared to join the project.

Ultimately I suppose, I don’t actually care about Glow as such. All I care about is that we get our learners making the most of the potential of the web. I still believe that from a policy, leadership and whole-system perspective Glow still offers a great way of achieving this if done well.


  • Reply Mr. McEnaney |

    Whilst having you involved in the development would have made even me more optimistic about Glow, I don’t think these new roles will change the perception (and, depending on your point of view, ultimate reality) that Glow is doomed to forever be a ‘jam tomorrow’ situation in Scottish education (with very, very expensive jam); by the time we get things right the definition of what’s ‘right’ will have changed, and nobody has ever convinced me that there’s a way to avoid this.

    Personally I also believe – deep down – that Glow will ultimately stifle innovation and creativity, and that we’d be better spending the extraordinary amount of money required on other areas in order to support the use of 21st Century technology in our schools.

    • Reply fearghal |

      Thanks James,

      I do empathise with your point of view, and you could well be right…but I hope not.

      I would point out though that it’s about much more than these new roles…there is a whole new team, approaching the project in a new way and these roles will be part of this. From what I’ve heard, if there was a right way of moving forwards then this is as close to it as I can imagine.

      I also disagree that Glow inevitably stifles creativity and is doomed to being behind the curve. If Glow is a secure authentication system which allows users to access services of their choice, then it would actually encourage innovation and would easily keep up with new technologies.

      I think a good example of this potential for glow is the glow blogs. They were no big deal in East Lothian where we already have a wordpress installation on edubuzz, but in LAs where blogging was unthinkable they opened a door and allowed innovation to take place where it was otherwise impossible.

      Whilst I don’t think Glow is as doomed to obselesence as you do, I would agree that it will be unlikely to always be at the bleeding edge…but then I’m not convinced that’s it’s purpose. It should be providing universal access to standard web tools and encouraging/allowing ALL staff and students to use them for learning – not just us keeno geeky types (apologies if you wouldn’t classify yourself as such ;).

      Thanks again for your comment!


      • Reply Mr. McEnaney |

        I suppose the issue is that I don’t believe a nationalised system will ever be able to “keep up with new technologies” even if it does become a secure authentication system. I think there will always be people asking “why can’t you just use Glow” when people like us try to do something different, and then of course if you’re not allowed to do something different it won’t appear as one of the things that the secure authentication gives you access to. I also think that there are just too many useful tools out there for that particular model to work long term, which is a shame because in an ideal world a single log-in to almost any useful service or website would be massively helpful.

        I will happily admit that Glow has done good things in the past (such as your blogging example, and the general encouragement of tech in the classroom, although the latter may have happened regardless) but I think we’ve reached the stage where the determination to make it work – a determination rooted in the huge amounts of time and money already poured into it – is blinding us to other options and better opportunities.

        Incidentally, I completely agree with your final point (and, actually, if seen that way then a lot of my other issues with Glow damaging creativity would be mitigated) but I can’t help but feel that what is being described is, essentially, Google Apps – the question then has to be why we are reinventing a wheel that is already right in front of us.

  • Reply Jaye Richards-Hill |

    I think the thing to remember is that the GlowPlus project is all about getting the best of the web into Glow. Have a look at the ICTEx report and design again to se what the plan is. Getting educationalists involved in he project management is something we have pushed for since Mr Russell agreed with this in Febuary.

  • Reply John Johnston |

    @fearghal, a real pity that your secondment didn’t work out. Hopefully you and folk like you and James will be involved/consulted along the way.
    @James, I hope glow will not stifle innovation, but enable more folk to innovate. I think innovation can come from looking at a good toolkit in a new way as well as adoption of the latest and greatest. One of the things I believe glow needs to do is give easy access to this standard toolkit( I do not mean sharepoint here).

  • Reply Hamish Budge |

    Those at the “bleeding edge” will always find something new to try out and Glow will (should) not change that.
    What glow can give the rest of us is a toolbox that is fit for purpose, but more importantly a community to share these (and other) tools in creative, supportive and, yes, innovative ways.
    Having a nationally supported product like this allows us to target and promote the effective use of ICT to thousands of children. Not just odd class who are fortunate enough to have a teacher who can use ICT creatively with positive effect.

So, what do you think ?