After chatting to Professor Martin Weller a couple of nights ago over a pint (or two) I got thinking back to my own time(s) at university — 3 stints at various points over the years — and wondered what would have made all those dreary lectures more interesting, engaging and educative (which is not to say that all the lectures I went to were dreary, just most of them). A remark by Stephen Downes in Old Daily chimed with me, and I decided that just one simple step would have increased the learning potential manifold — if I had been able to hear the lecture before the lecture actually took place, and the ‘lecture’ itself became instead an open discussion on what I had already heard.
Tutorials tended to fulfil a similar purpose, but they were almost always run by someone other than the lecturer himself or herself — no chance, then, of debating the key points with the person making those points in the first place.
And, of course, we now have the technology, as they say. There must be some university teachers out there doing something like this.….….
Pride, they say, is a sin (so I’m glad to be an atheist) but I have been feeling the odd burst of pride recently.
It has been immensely gratifying to read some of the comments I have seen recently on Glow as it develops, slowly, into a mainstream tool in Scottish education, as I know it will over time. Most recently, the reflected glow (sorry) from Laurie O’Donnell’s Edutopia Award, comments by Caroline Gibson, the quirky little video on Ewan’s blog, good work by Gordon McKinlay in Renfrewshire, signs of Glow Groups beginning to take off via Tess’s blog, and so many others, have given me heart that this little germ of an idea that started for real 8 or so years ago is starting to grow up into a full blown epidemic of the very best kind.
The words that have pleased me most, though, came today from Jaye Richards in her blog — Mimanifesto — when she wrote about the activities and discussions that she and others had taken part in during a two-day workshop on Glow at Stirling Management Centre:
“.… I guess this is what the “creative subversion” professor Debra Myhill advocates. She defines this in the following way…
“teachers should neither passively comply with government initiatives, nor should they point blank refuse to implement them. Instead they should adapt them creatively”.
This is what we are about with GLOW…and a roomful of classroom practitioners have just spent two very productive days doing just this.
A very good friend and colleague from those early days, Neil MacFarlane (who is still heavily involved in the programme), a civil servant with a wickedly dry sense of humour, used to say that we will know that SSDN (Glow’s original title: Scottish Schools Digital Network) is finally a success when it enables anarchy to break out in Scotland’s classrooms. We all agreed with him, since we knew what he meant by ‘anarchy’, and Jaye’s mention of ‘creative subversion’ comes very close to that definition. Everyone in that tiny initial team that drew up those first plans for Glow tried so hard to work to instil into that specification the capacity for others, one day, to be able to make use of the environment it would offer in whatever way they wanted to. Although we could not have expressed it thus at the time, we were trying to create an instance of the ‘Web as the Learning Platform’ — we envisaged an open environment that would be flexible enough to permit a whole series of different applications to live within its boundaries, and more importantly, that could continue to engage with other applications whether on the Web or elsewhere, inside and outside Glow.
Those who, over the years, have tried to typify Glow — before they had seen it — as some kind of restrictive, centrally-directed, managed-service monster will, with the help of people such as Jaye, Caroline, Tess, Gordon and so many others may now be able to see that Glow is, indeed, simply a web service (though a rich and complex one), and one that can be used — or abused — by the teacher in whatever way they wish.
My hope is that, in line with Jaye’s comments, teachers and learners in Scottish schools will take Glow to heart and, more importantly, take control of it, each in their own way to suit their own purposes. Across the country, the extent to which that will be possible will depend on how each local authority sets up Glow for use in its schools — those authorities that try to maintain too tight a control over the service will make it hard for creative subversion to flourish. I hope that proves not to be the case anywhere in Scotland.
Postscript — Interestingly, I still have in a folder on my Mac a copy of the very first Glow specification that Robert Skey, my key colleague in those days, and I presented to the wider, but still small, group in the Scottish Executive and in LT Scotland, as the initial outline of where we wanted to go with SSDN. It was actually version 3, because Robert and I deliberately kept versions 1 and 2 close to our chests until we were happy to open it out for others to see. The interesting thing is that, despite the 18 months of close scrutiny and amendment that the specification underwent in the hands of the large group of educationists from every Scottish local authority who helped us improve the spec, despite almost two years of the tender and contract negotiation process, and despite more than two years of development by RM since we signed the contract with them, that little-old Version 3 of the specification still describes, I would estimate, around 75%-80% of what Glow has ended up as today.
Well, it’s interesting to me
From a recent edition of the Guardian:
“It took two centuries to fill the shelves of the Library of Congress with more than 57 million manuscripts, 29 million books and periodicals, 12 million photographs, and more. Now, the world generates an equivalent amount of digital information nearly 100 times each day.”
And we still think we can get away with a form of education that puts teachers in front of classes and asks them to inculcate, somehow, a prescribed body of knowledge decided by whoever?
I wonder how far we have moved on since Jim Hacker’s superbly pithy descriptions of the readerships of the main UK newspapers at the time? Great to see and hear this again.
Question: is it enough to attribute ownership of a creative commons photograph by simply linking back to the original, or should there always be an explicit and named credit for the asset? I have to admit to having done the former on occasions without also doing the latter (I have checked on a couple of occasions that the owners were happy with this form of attribution, and both were).
I recently used a photograph from the Flickr site of Rashunda Tramble without explicit, named, attribution but I did link back to her original on Flickr. Rashunda has taken me to task for doing so, and I have aplogised to her. However, I would like to see how others feel about this issue.
Rashunda, by the way, is a hard-working and experienced journalist working out of Switzerland — given her background, I can understand her issue with explicit attribution.
From here on in, I will take the safe (and courteous) route by giving clear attribution at all times.
Mark Nichols, an educator in New Zealand, rebukes me, politely, for my “rhetoric and generalisation” in my recent post on Teaching at a Crossroads. It is always good to be pulled up and forced to consider your own statements in some detail, and to respond (which I shall do once I wake up properly from my trip back from Mexico):
Sorry, but I see little here beyond rhetoric and generalisation, the sort of commentary that edubloggers really need to move beyond if they are to make a mainstream difference. I mean, “the very nature of what it means to be literate, to be educated, is shifting around them” — what did it used to mean? How has it really changed? How do new technologies “change what it means to be educated”? Is this an endorsement of connectivism, a theory that is yet to prove itself as a viable basis for framed education? Is connectivism suddenly a deterministic theory rather than a descriptive one? Also, is a Web 2.0-based education going to solve all educational woes? Are we even expecting too much of a system where success is more a matter of the student’s own social context than they way in which they are ‘educated’? There’s simply too much assumption underlying what you have posted here that lies beneath the surface. Are you assuming a ‘teacher-tells-all’ incumbent system? How accurate is this?
Again, sorry. I’ve read this sort of post too many times before, and each time I am frustrated at the way in which the honest and valuable efforts of teachers in today’s classrooms are perceived as being inadequate, incomplete or a waste of time because they are not perfect for all and do not embrace Web 2.0! Also, all too frequently, the benefits of our own ‘Web 1.0′ education are largely overlooked.
I’m looking for deeper commentary, research-based, self-critical, perhaps based on appreciative inquiry. Is there any edublogger who does this?
Sorry to vent in your comments!
Thanks, Mark — I’ll get back to you
Of course, anyone else who wants to discuss Mark’s points should feel free to join in.
This display in the wonderful Anthropological Museum in Mexico City was simply stunning, and yet simple enough. It covers a whole wall around 15 metres wide, and shows many of the facial types that exist around the world, but the display has each picture set up so that you can look either at the face itself or, by moving just a couple of feet to the left or right, an image of the skull beneath.
I decided this was the closest facial type to my own ruggedly handsome visage (now now!).….
.…and when I stepped just a little to the side.….the skull beneath showed up.