TL:DR: I think that the problems in embedding digital in learning are complex. Glow, which address the software part is the one that is closest to being solved.

On Sunday I got added to a twitter conversation that started with a tweet about glow use from Derek Roberson

This got picked up by James McEnaney (@MrMcEnaney) and I and other got pinged:

My initial reaction was that there was not much room on twitter for the conversation I though was necessary.

But I dipped in with a couple of replies:

I suspect bad with access to hardware have more of an effect on digital learning than how good or bad glow is.

and

What I’d hope glow did was give ‘permission’ to use digital

Much more was batted back and forth, including this point from Derek:

not as simple as that. Getting the digital in to established practice and attitudes the real challenge.

James:

I’d agree with that, but I’m not convinced GLOW is the way to do it

James said the purpose should be

helping to embed digital & collaborative tools in established practice.

and

I’d argue the only reason GLOW survived is because of the political ramifications of admitting failure.

The conversation was quite hard to follow as it spawned several sub threads with different folk being included in different replies. I am not going to pretend to cover all the conversation, but do have a few thoughts to add and expand on.

Caveat, I was seconded as a “Product Owner” to Glow for 23 months and still support Glow Blogs on a part-time contract to Education Scotland. But this post is very much in the spirt of my disclaimer:

opinions are my own and not those of my employer (the blog is produced in my own time). My opinions are not set in stone, I frequently change my mind, make mistakes and contradict myself.

I’ve also re-written this posts a few time and deleted a podcast. The digital in education, even when confined to Glow is a huge subject.

I do think these questions need to be asked and answered again and again.

Statistics

First, the 9% is a wee bit out, a recent FOI request leads to real stats:

The Cost of Glow – a Freedom of Information request to Education Scotland – WhatDoTheyKnow.

This points to a rather better figure that the 9% teacher login claim that started the conversation. The best month Jan – May 2016 had nearly 60% of Scottish teachers and 11% of pupils logging on.

I am guessing a lot of the teacher use is driven by LAs that have adopted O365 email as their main email system for schools. The pupil login is initially, at least, disappointing.

I wonder what sort of figure would be a good one. What does the use of a more successful tool look like? Do schools or education systems that adopt other systems have better stats? If so what drives these.

Is even the 11% all that poor? I would not expect many primary infants to be logging on independently, they are more likely to access Glow via a teacher’s logging on a smart-board than to be keeping their own blog.

Timetabling and access to ICT equipment in schools will also affect this. How many times does the average pupil in Scotland access ICT in school?

The quality of hardware, time to get set up and online and bandwidth will also affect teacher’s decision to use ICT in learning.

Finally there is the ability of teaching staff to manage digital learning on top of their other workload issues.

Embed digital

Is Glow helping to embed digital & collaborative tools in established practice?

It would be madness not to use digital tools in learning. These are soon going to be tools without the digital. I wonder how many pupils in my class now will handwrite anything as an adult. I know I had not written a sentence in the 8 years preceding my return to class a couple of weeks ago.

If we are going to help to embed digital & collaborative tools it looks like there are three areas that need addressed:

  • The software
  • How we access it (hardware & infrastructure)
  • Cultural (skills and appetite of staff)

Glow provides some of the first and had an affect on the third, some of the money spent on Glow could have been used to help the second.

The software

I was very enthusiastic about the concept of Glow and pretty disappointed by its original incarnation. Compared to the web2 tools I was using it felt clunky. Even once I understood some of the features, it was not, in my opinion, a good solution. I saw many interesting things done with old glow, but this was usually built on a lot of effort and support.

At the point that Glow was introduced it would have been very hard to understand the way that digital tools were going to evolve. At the time I remember being surprised that it didn’t include the tools that were beginning to appear. I now realise that the planning and preparation start a long time before implementation.

When I joined the Glow team I was still of the opinion that Sharepoint was not a good solution for Education. I began to be quite impressed with the O365 tools, Word online, Onenote and the like, but they still felt a bit Beta compared to the Google productivity suite. Fortunately for all involved I eventually fell into concentrating on the Blogs and stopped complaining about O365/Sharepoint.

Although Glow is not a login to a whole range of digital services there is no doubt O365 has become one of if not the major part of Glow. My own head and heart remain with Blogs but for many online teachers and learners O365 is going to be their main toolset.

What has happened is these tools have matured and continue to improve at a rapid rate. They have been joined by a suite of tools, Sway, Yammer, MS forms and more, themselves evolving, that feel like a much better fit than Sharepoint.

It was unfortunate, IMO, that the first bit of the O365 suite that was ready for business in Glow was Sharepoint. It still is not the friendliest environment I could imagine. I would think it could be very successful when supported by a team of Sharepoint developers, but it is not easy for teachers to modify and customise.

Now Glow provides a secure, safe set of modern cloud based software tools for communication and collaborating. If I was going to criticise the tools set I’d need to be quite picky. I also think that these tools are set to continue to evolve and improve.

A downside this evolution means that some of the services can feel a little beta. I think this is something that users of software in general are getting used to. It also needs a change in support material, not how to guides but how to figure out for yourself help, or a way of rapidly providing answers not just by the centre but by a growing community.

The perception that Glow is a poor set of tools is still held by many, I would suspect that they would not be so skeptical if they had the opportunity to spend a reasonable amount of time trying them out.

An idea expressed by some is that there are enough free tools out there to used and we do not need a national product. This is quite tempting. It would need a greater digital skill set to negotiate the different logons, data protection issues and security. 1

Hardware & infrastructure

I suspect that the effect of hardware & infrastructure far outweighs Glow in its effect. How often do pupils get access to hardware? When they do how long does it take to get machines/devices booted and ready to go? How fast are connections to the new online services?

This is the area I am least qualified to blog about. It does seem I’ve got better bandwidth at home than many primary schools. The efforts to tackle bandwidth need a lot of joined up thinking and investment. Given the cuts on local authority spend recently (I feel that one deeply), I am not sure how this could be resolved. There does seem to be a bit of divide opening up between schools across the country.

On hardware there is national procurement, but this will again be affected by local spending decisions. Some LAs are experimenting with allowing pupils and teachers to bring their own hardware and some with a variety of devices.

Cultural

The old Glow got a bad reputation some of this was deserved. A lot of staff have pretty negative feelings about this. I do get the impression some of these opinions were formed quickly and the holders have not had a chance to really dig into the new tools.

I also thing there were two sources of this dissatisfaction: the digitally confident, who knew of better tools and the less confident who were baffled by the system.

When new Glow arrived, in Oct 14, not much had changes, on the Blogs we had moved to a new setup with pretty much the same system. O365 mostly consisted of Sharepoint, with the business apps being quite rough in places. This unfortunately probably allowed some of the old opinions to stick. I believe that it is now worth folk taking a fresh look at the improved and developing tools.

Permission

One of the most powerful things that Glow does is give permission. Although James disagreed with that:

On various occasions it was also used to prevent me from using digital tools

I was lucky that when I started using blogs, podcasting and wikis with pupils, I was unaware of any rules that would forbid me for allowing pupils to publish online. I used common sense and kept myself and my pupils out of trouble. This is probably not a method that could be embraced by Local authorities and governing bodies.

Since then conversation continued discussing the Stats from the FOI request. James still questioning if Glow was the right way to go.

When I attempted to join North Lanarkshire Council to support ICT, I concentrated on this experience at interview. After I was in post, I was somewhat surprised to find that the council, at that time, did not allow schools to publish to services that were not controlled by the council on council servers. My thoughts of encouraging blogging and podcasting were rather stymied.

When NLC started using Glow and then it was enhanced by the original Glow Blogs I could start to use my experience. Glow gave schools tools and permission to use them. It to some extent, takes care of worrying about data protection and security.

Skills and confidence

Lots of teachers feel quite negative about their own ICT skills. Workload issues in the classroom are huge. How we provide support and training for the use of digital is really important. The training is also knitted into the software, hardware and infrastructure available in schools. It is not much use being trained on using great devices on a wonderful network to return to limited old kit of a stuttering connection.

How we provide that support nationally and in local authorities, with the spending constraints, is again a thorny problem. The kind of support you provide for an evolving and improving toolset is an interesting one. Past attempts (NOF, Masterclass, the old Glow roll outs) gave spotty results. I am hopeful that the embedding of digital in trainee teachers I see happening at the University of Dundee are a good start. Linking this with national, local and community support would perhaps give a jigsaw of encouragement. It would, I fear, require a bit more investment.

Glow is not the problem

The problem is a challenging. One part is the software. I think it is the part that has now been best addressed. I think that the hardware/infrastructure one needs to be solved while we address the culture/skills issue.

An invitation

If you are interested in this topic I’d love to discuss it further. I would imo, make a great topic for Radio Edutalk. Leave me a comment of get in touch (@johnjohnston) if you would be interested.

Featured Image: cropped from Components of Hudson Brothers chaff cutter No known copyright restrictions

1. I also think we need to think a lot more carefully about or software choices for all sort of reasons. I’ve tagged some thoughs DigitalUWS in old posts.

This is a pretty random time to look back, but I was browsing through some old posts here looking for a link and came across this from 22nd December 2013, before I was started my secondment to the Glow Team. I’ve changed the unordered list to an ordered one so that I can score myself.

I hope that glow will both continue to supply WordPress blogs and to make them much more powerful. I’ve no idea if I will be in a position to influence this, but this is what I would like:

  1. The MetawebLogAPI to be activated, this allows posting to blogs from mobile applications.
  2. More plugins, especially FeedWordPress that would allow a teacher to ‘collect’ their pupils blogs or anyone to create a space were others could easily contribute from their own blog.
  3. Access to editing the code, either through the web interface of via ftp (I guess this might be the hardest one to pull off).
  4. More themes (there are only about 6 in glow) would not do any harm.

One way to do this, would be for glow to supply web hosting, these spaces, like cheap web-hosting all over the internet, could allow one click installs of WordPress (and lots of other software). I explored this in a recent post here: Glow should be at the trailing edge? but have not really got an idea if this is possible from either a cost or execution point of view? I hope to find out soon if this is a possibility or a pipe dream.

from: EDUtalk, learning to love WordPress

We do continue to provide WordPress blogs and in my opinion a better service. The upgraded version of WordPress and much easier setup of a blog as the two major benefits.

As for the List:

  1. I failed at the first, right from the get go the developers, security advisers and technical experts told me the MetaWebLogAPI was not an option for Glow Blogs. It would not work with the RM login and other options did not seem to fit the bill. Since I’d being going on about this for years. It is a big disappointment to me. It is mitigated somewhat by the improving mobile interface of WordPress which will only get better as long as Glow keeps up with WordPress in a timely fashion (as planned).
  2. More plugins, especially FeedWordPress, we didn’t get FWP but we have a syndication plugin that does much of the same thing. I am not sure I’ve convinced many folk to use it or explained it properly, but the potential is there. There are not a host of other plugins that have been added, but there are a few. Jetpack in particular, even in the cutdown version running on Glow, is very useful.
  3. Access to editing the code, a pipe dream on a multi-site that values security and performance. We do have access to editing CSS via the Jetpack plugin. This is useful and probably usable by more folk.
  4. More themes, we gained TwentyTwelve, TwentyThirteen, TwentyFourteen when we upgraded to WP 4. Later we got TwentyFifteen, Yoko and P2. We will be losing Spectrum News and Suffusion in the future. There are a few more to be added when we have the resource to do so.

If I was being generous I’d give myself 5 out of 10 for this list, a could do better C.

I’ve probably got a bit of a better idea in the amount of work involved in doing something as simple as adding a theme or a plugin. I’d like it if there was a way for Glow users to submit requests and these to be evaluated in a reasonable time frame.

We have managed to upgrade WordPress itself and were a bit unlucky that 2 security upgraded had to be applied in a very short space of time recently. The notion of keeping reasonably up to date is firmly in place. We should get a lot of good things just by doing that.

The final post, provision of space for hosting your own blog, seems a bit starry eyed, but as I notice earlier today the idea is getting some traction. I don’t expect we would see this any time soon, but I still think it is worth thinking about.

I’ve another 141 days until the end of my secondment, in light of progress so far this is what I’d like to see before then:

  1. The improved e-portfolio system out of the door
  2. A few new themes and the odd plugin added.
  3. Upgrade WordPress if appropriate
  4. Make cast iron the expectations for continual improvement

I’ll mark myself on these in December.

More important I hope I see an increase in the use of blogs by pupils that actively impacts their learning.

The photo at the top is one that is averaged from several I took, I guess a C is average.

Last evening I noticed on twitter:

And jumped in without thinking too much.

Rich (@richardtape) was providing drop in support on a Google Hangout. Rich works at University of British Columbia which is, of course, organizing the Teaching with WordPress course I am trying to follow.

I had, for a short while, the floor to myself. Unfortunately I made poor use of the time, my teacup was too full. Rich was extremely patient and told me the answer to my problem several times, I just didn’t notice. Hopefully I’ve learned a lesson for the next time I have a similar opportunity (hoping against experience here).

The problem is the one described in the previous post. To display a question/assignment/challenge post along with responses to that post. Christina solved it with the loop shortcode plugin. We do not have that plugin on GlowBlogs.

Five Thirty am Enlightenment

After mulling over the problem in bed this morning I suddenly listened to Rich again. He had repeatedly told me the best way to do this would be RSS but I had focused on plugins and facilities we do not have (yet?) in GlowBlogs.

So the way I would solve this in Glow blogs would be to use RSS widgets, to pull in responses. These responses would be on the same blog as the questions (but could be pulled in with the syndication plugin, or on another blog that does the aggregation). The widget would only be displayed on the post with the question as it would have a unique category. The responses would have a unique category or tag.

Here is a quick example: Challenge 2 Red.

On that post you can see the challenge (show something red). In the sidebar there is a widget showing a list of posts tagged red. This only shows up on the challenge page. I’ve added some information to the post to give more details.

There are a couple of drawbacks to this method.

  1. It is a bit fiddly for the person setting up the challenge. They need to create a widget per challenge and a category per challenge.
  2. The RSS update is not immediate. A WordPress query would be better.

I would be interested in using it for something like the bootcamp and see how it goes.

image

Glow Cast is a new podcast. Just one episode so far.

As you would imagine it is a podcast about Glow. The idea is to keep the episodes short and fairly casual. The more important function is to demonstrate how easy it s to podcast and provide some resources for would be podcasters.

Glow Blogs now provide a very good podcasting platform. The increase upload file size will ensure that reasonable length podcasts can be published with ease.

I’ve long believed that podcasting is a very underused technology in the classroom. It can be a very motivating tool that can touch on any area of the curriculum as well as hitting multiple literacy experiences. Podcasting can provide great opportunities for projects and collaborative learning. In the past it was quite difficult technically but now it is very simple indeed.

**If you are thinking of dipping your toes into podcasting but are unsure of the first steps check out Glow Cast the resources are only beginning to to build.

31314

I’ve not blogged much about work recently, but this story is a good one if somewhat tangled.

We are working, in the Glow blogs team, on the next release. This is mainly to address any problems with the upgrade to WordPress 4.0.1 that came out in January.

My work includes: watching reports come through the help desk; passing on problems that come directly to me (twitter, email and phone) through to the RM. I do a wee bit of tyre kicking and talking to the test team on the way.

On Tuesday I got a mail from a teacher, to the effect that the link to My Sites from the Local Authority home pages didn’t work. Talking to Grant, one of the test team, I found out he was chasing the same problem. We kicked it around a bit and found that if a new users creates a blog on their LA before accessing My Sites, the link did not work, it leads to a list of blogs that the user has a role on.

This is not a show stopper as the user can click on any of the blogs and then the My Site link in the Admin Bar as a work around.

While testing this out we noticed that although the Admin Bar is visible on any Glow blog in your Local Authority, the My Sites link on it leads to the same error (with a list of your sites page).

Thinking these were linked I raised a call to the RM help desk. This got passed through to the team at Automattic. They have quickly fixed the first issue and recorded the fix in our system (JIRA) for following development. The code will be in the next release, hopefully in tow or three weeks.

At this point we asked about the second bug, we were told that is was in WordPress core and the team had not only reported it but proposed an initial fix. It is worth pointing out that this was put into the WordPress tracking system at quarter to eleven on Thursday night:

#31314 (My Sites admin bar link broken when on blogs you have no role on) – WordPress Trac

You can see from the linked page, that the ticked was closed at 6:29 on Friday morning. The fix and some improvements are currently attracting the attention and input from three other developers who are completely unconnected from Glow.

So What?

The people that helped with this one included:

  • The teacher who reported the problem
  • The Testers contracted to the Scottish Government
  • The RM Help Desk who are the first point of contact for Glow fault
  • The Developers from Automattic working for Glow
  • WordPress developers who have nothing to do with and likely no knowledge of Glow

Which quite a complex system, but it seems to be working. Most of these people are on the hook and doing their job, but I wonder if a bug in a commercial system would be fixed so quickly? We don’t have the bug fixed in our system but it looks good for being sorted out in a subsequent upgrade.

For me this was pretty exciting. It feels pretty good for those of us who think that Open Source and Openness in general is a good idea in Education.


Now we have moved Glow Blogs into the 21st century we are going have some fun.

The idea of the bootcamp is a place were folk can get help in starting or improving their class blogs.

The bootcamp will take you through creating a blog, adding features and a range of blogging activities. Classes will have the opportunity to link up with other glow blogs and the world wide blogging community.

Each week there will be ‘technical’ tips, blogging challenges and discussion points that can be carried out in your classroom and on your blog.

What you need: A Class, somewhere to blog (glow for example). No technical knowledge needed.

While most of the technical support will be aimed at glow users the bootcamp is open to any classroom.

Details of how to sign up are on the Blogging Bootcamp blog

image

On of the real benefits to upgrading glow blogs to WordPress 4 will be its mobile interface. When WordPress 2.9.2 came out in 2010 we were just into the start of the mobile web and the term responsive web design had just been coined.

Now a large percentage of the population have devices in their pockets that are more than capable of posting content online.

. The WordPress  dashboard now  is responsive resizing and rearranging the tools to fit on my screen. Adding an image is simple and a gallery is easy enough.

WordPress now lets me select several images to insert in a post or create a gallery.

This post was started in the train, continued on the tube platform and finished on the couch all using my phone.

Personally I am not the greatest typest on any device. Many folk will be faster. Or I could start a post while mobile, capture images and save that as a draft for later.

I am looking forward to seeing how glow bloggers go mobile next year.

change

We have just announce the hope that phase 2 of the Glow Blogs project will go live sometime in January next year. This is a wee bit later than our original plans. Personally I am not too disappointed as I can see how hard the team across the Scottish Government and Code For The People (as was)1 are working.

Before I started this business, I could not really see what all the fuss was about, surely all we need to do is upgrade WordPress and all would be well. And that would be fine if it was one blog, dealing with, and sorting out any wee snags and glitches. But width >130000 blogs we need to try and make sure, as much as possible, that the blog owners don’t have much work to do. A major benefit of the newer version of WordPress should be making people’s lives easier it would be a bad start if they need to do a lot of work to keep their blogs looking the same.

Some Details

Here is an example or two of the work that is being carried out.

Anarchy

The Anarchy Media Player plugin was used to display video and audio on Glow Blogs. This plugin is no longer supported or updated. Much of its functionality has been improved on in core WordPress. WorpdPress now lets you upload or add a link to audio or video and choose to link to the media or embed it.
If we just turn off the plugin that would result in existing links to media, that are embedded, just being presented as links. If we leave it in folk may continue to use the features which may not survive any future upgrades. After a bit of though the developers have produced a slimmed down version of the plugin that will continue to change links into embeds. This new version will not however present buttons on the posting tool bar and encourage its continued use.
Hopefully this will smooth the upgrade experience for some people.

Resize

The old glow blogs had an upload file limitation of 8mb, this has been increased to 50mb which should help people to post small videos and reasonable length audio files. There will be extra cost in hosting the files and we want to balance this out a bit. In the old blogs quite a few folk ran out of space just by uploading un-edited image files. A plugin, resize at upload plus was added to the service in the hope that people would turn this on, images would be resized and very large sizes would be remove.
In the new setup this plugin has been updated and will be turned on for all blogs. The images will be resized down to 1200 pixels maximum width. This will ensure that images will still look good but trim some size of the rather large images that come out of digital cameras. This resize can be turned off, just in case someone want to have a photography blog and allow huge images to be stored.

These are just two of many changes that the team are working on. There is also the effect of the upgrade on the themes used on blogs, particularly the > 60 profile/e-portfolio themes. Each change needs a fair bit of discussion and work from the developers, each bit of functionality needs to be tested and all the other functionality need to be tested to see if the change has unforeseen consequences.

The User’s Experience

This is going to improve, WordPress has always been regarded as a good bit of software from an end user perspective. Improvement however means change. I am confident that these changes will make things a lot better, but habits will need to adapt. Hopefully we can explain any points of possible pain before the upgrade. We will be changing centuries in software terms, 2.9.2 was released in 2010 version 4 came out this year.

As usual I am more than happy to discuss any aspect of glow blogs, please get in touch if you need more information.


Footnotes:

1. Code for the people have joined the WordPress.com VIP Team at Automattic! They still are working on the Glow project.

Last Friday at the same time as the glow authentication changed, the new glow blogs service went live. I posted about this over on Glow Connect.

It was pretty exciting stuff, the developers were really working right up to the last minute and beyond to deliver the service. Even so we have gone live with a few know issues and have already discovered a few more.

At the start of the processes I certainly was not aware of all the complexities involved nor the scale of the job. Turns out it was a big complex job!

Luckily for me I ended up working with an amazing team, not only in the Scottish Government, but in the developers and suppliers. All of them worked long hours with very positive attitudes as I grumbled along. I am tempted to turn this post into a list of these characters and their qualities, but probably enough to say all of the blog team were essential to the process.

What Have We Got

Stray Puppy by p medved
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

At the end of this phase we have a working set of WordPress MU, one for each Local Authority, running the same version of the software as before and we have the known issues linked above.

The main improvement so far is around blog creation. There is no connection to SharePoint/old glow groups. This simplifies the process a great deal. This and other Main Changes are listed in the Glow Blog Help, some of these are not improvements but changes.

One more improvement, not listed, is that you can now upload files of up to 50mb to blogs. This should make it a lot easier to podcast or share small videos without using a third party site or service.

On Wednesday I popped back to North Lanarkshire to watch my colleague Ann McCabe set up a class of e-portfolios, this was much quicker than before, taking away at least half the steps. There is still plenty of room from improvement and I got a great idea to take back to Victoria Quay from the RM help desk who I visited in the afternoon.

Next Up

Given the above, if this was the end point in the process I’d be pretty disappointed. A lot of work for not much in the way of improvement. I am not disappointed due to two things, phase 2 and phase 3.

Phase 2 was looking quite simple, upgrade to a new version of WordPress. This will bring a host of benefits, better user experience especially on mobile being the main gain. More important, in the longer run, is that it gives us a much better base to develop on.
The other aspect of phase 2 will be to backfill in things that were dropped out of phase one or needs that were discovered in phase 1.

It looks like phase 2 will take a bit more work than I expected, but this will start straight off. Already some of the first problems to be discovered has been solved and the developer team are just waiting to decide when to deploy the code. Another potential ongoing problem with server load is now beginning to be understood and the team are working on finding the best solution. The team are keen that the server gets a chance to bed in and are suitably cautious about changing things on the live system, best practises for ongoing change and development are being put in place.

Bright Future

After we get to phase 3 of the project things might speed up a bit. We will be using WordPress 4 which will allow a lot of nice things to happen.

The one I am most excited about is giving a more flexible service. In the old glow blogs it was a constant frustration for myself and many others that our theme and plugin requests were never answered. I am not entirely sure of all the reasons for this, but having peeped behind the curtain I presume some of this was to do with testing.

Watching the new blogs service develop gave me a bit of a shock in the amount of time and effort it needs to deliver a service of this scale. Like many folk who publish stuff on the web I frequently make changes without much of a care and worry. The Technical Architects and developers for glow take a somewhat different view. There first concern is the preservation of users data and stability of the service and given they are taking care of over 100,000 blogs…

The glow blogs system now consists of 4 main servers: integration (where new code is added after code review), explore (for testing), pre-production (more testing) and live. With the older version of WordPress we are using a lot of the development and testing is manual, the testers here and volunteers going through lists of test to test the functionality of the blogs. In addition there is security, load and a many more tests.

Going forward the process should be automated, the newer version of WordPress can have a deal of automatic testing, code going onto the integrate server would be pushed through the different servers being automatically tested on the way, this gives us the possibility of a much more agile service.

On the Way

On Friday last week there was a fair amount of cheering and happy faces around the glow office, since then feedback has been mainly positive. I am not really ready to celebrate yet, there still is a lot to do before we reach the point learners and teachers in Scotland have a world class blogging platform. There so many possibilities out there for doing all sorts of things with WordPress. We would, of course be really interested to hear of any ideas of what you would like from Glow blogs.

WIKI

Photo credit: WIKI by Kevin Baird, on Flickr Creative Commons — CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Along side the blog migration for Glow I’ve been working on the wiki procurement. Wikis were part of the services added to Glow in 2010 (AFAIR) along with blogs and forums. When it came to think about the new services and migration wiki migration was not in the plans and wikis were not on the map of new services.

The previous wiki solution was not particularly well used, around 4000 wikis were created over the projects lifetime (compare to >130,000 blogs). The software behind the wikis was mindtouch. This is now discontinued and I believe missed a few features that make wikis useful in the classroom. These included nice themes and a simple workflow for uploading and embedding images.

It was decided to look at the possibilities for continuing to have wikis as part of the glow offering. This might seem counter intuitive as O365 sharepoint sites can be though of as Wikis and certainly have wiki pages as part of sites. I think a separate wiki offers a simpler way of building on the internet and it is also important to have the facility to make a wiki public in some instances.

Personally I’ve had enough success with children publishing publicly on the internet that that would be my default position. Other teachers and educators may prefer closed environments and glow can provide for both.

As part of the process of provisioning wikis we evaluated many different solutions, wikispaces stood out as the best fit for our needs1. Wikispaces was also mentioned frequently by the folk who responded to our wiki survey. No other product was mentioned favourably.

As part of procurement three different vendors were invited to tender and their tenders evaluated against a set of requirements. Wikispaces were the best fit and their tender has been accepted.

It has been a while since I used wikispaces in the classroom but it looks like they have added a lot of classroom specific features to the service without over complicating the process. I am not exactly sure of how the wikis will connect up to glow but look forward to working on that development in the coming weeks.

I had a brief look through my bookmarks for interesting wikis which might give you an idea of how to use one:

As always I’d be interested to see how learners and teachers in Scotland are or would use wikispaces.


Footnotes:

1. Personally I like wikitext and enjoyed using wikis that are not WYSIWYG but I think I am in a minority on that one.