On Friday Professor Muffy Calder Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland announced The ICT in Education Excellence Group completes its report on the requirements of a future Glow service the report can be downloaded from the Excellence Group Report page on The Scottish Government site. I’d recommend that anyone interested in using ict in Teaching and Learning read it.

First Thoughts Quotes

There is a lot of detail in the report covering many aspects of Glow Plus, here are some bits that have jumped out at me in the first read through or two:

While these documents refer to this service with the working title of “Glow Plus”, the Group proposes that a rebranding of the service – involving users – should be part of the implementation.

I’ve heard a lot of negativity for teachers about ‘glow’ some of the more clunky aspects of the initial implementation and the confusion over the transition to a new version have created some negativity. From talking to teachers where I work I’d guess the use of glow has dropped off considerably except for the use of e-portfolios. Rebranding might help, but a solid system will help even more.

The new service should be as open as possible, with only personal and procured content and services behind an authentication barrier.

Interesting to read Jaye about forcing teachers to use glow to access national 4 & five material. The more that is openly and easily available the more folk may use ICT and that is surly the point. I know some material must be behind paywalls, because we pay for it but not everything we logon to use needs to be behind a password.

Fearghal’s post Fearghal Kelly’s thoughts » Evaluating Glow Plus #ICTex questions this closed aspect of glow too.

The development of Glow Plus will necessarily be an iterative process and the Group recommends development using an agile development process with close involvement of users and other stakeholders.

I’ve blogged enough about the need for glow to be in perpetual beta to love the agile word here.

Teachers should be trusted to use their professional judgment about how ICT should be used.

Enough said.

To allow a power user or third-parties to develop integrated services a simple application programming interface (API) will enable support for applications to be integrated to the platform and feed the learning stream. As a result of integration, single sign-on will be achieved for that app. This API will also allow the limited release of user data based on authentication and attribute release/data exchange.

Some of the most interesting, most used, parts of glow have been the bits hacked by teachers and others rather than developers. Alex Duff’s bending wordpress into a usable e-portfolio despite the restrictions built into the glow implementation, Con Morris’s CPD groups that make the portal look nice and more importantly act like a web 2 site and Glow TV, developed by Pam Currie I believe, all show the power of users being able to develop what they need. An API and the open systems promised by the report could make the new glow a lot more open to this sort of development.

There is a lot more to the report than these quick takes, I recommend again, go and read it. I hope to think aloud a bit more about it here at a later date.

Meanwhile in the House of Love

While working as part of the ICTEX group Charlie Love has been developing Glew. Charlie is allegedly a computing teacher, which is hard to believe if you look at how Glew has developed. Glew is a prototype of what Glow Plus could be. It has been in steady, rapid and agile development for a year or so (guess). It pulls together a pile of open tools: wordpress, moodle, google apps, and more into an open but cohesive whole. It is the sort of Glow I’d want and when it is not a hint to Charlie is usually enough to get a new service added or bug sorted.

I am very keen to find out what Glew could be if it was under full time development and if Charlie had some assistance in developing the site.

A while back I said ‘I want a couple of things’:

  1. I don’t know what sort of technology I’ll want to learn and teach with in a few years. I want to be able to use new services and techniques as they arise.
  2. I also want to be able to alter and change these tools that some folk are excited about. Give me a wordpress blog, but one I can change, hack, repurpose add plugins and theme when needed, easily without fuss.

from: #EDUScotICT small things – transcript – John’s World Wide Wall Display

I still want these things and believe that the ICTEX’s vision and Charlie’s interpretation would give me these.

A New Dawn?

Beach Sunrise_120920223921 by bfaling Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Michael Russell,
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning reflects on the work of the ICT in Education Excellence Group

and my priority is not to lose momentum on this quality piece of work.


It is now important to consider the report and the feasibility of the recommendations therein and I am immediately establishing mechanisms to do that, including retaining the Excellence Group as a Reference Group to advise us going forward.

Seems we will need to wait a bit longer, I hope not too long. I feel that the Government missed a trick after the eduscotict / ICT Summit in 2011. From Mr Russell’s post it certainly sounds as if they will not this time.

Ironically just after my last post I had a very interesting and useful time on twitter today. Mostly about Glow and GlowPlus and Glew

I’ve collected the tweets here: #glow blogs – #glow365 – #glowplus #glew (with tweets) · johnjohnston · Storify

Interesting points include:

  • Glow blogs will be moving from wordpress to sharepoint. My worries is that they will then go back to wordpress with glowPlus, I am nor worried about WordPress, I believe it is the best of breed (see next post) but to many unnecessary changes in too short a time is not good.
  • Charlie Love can add something to glew as you think about it.
  • It would be possible to bypass 365 and use glew as way of getting from glow to GlowPlus, I don’t see that as being official enough for Local Authorities.

If you are interested in the glow/glew/glowplus events have a read of the tweets.

Jaye commented here:

My other thoughts are about the need for anything at all. Are we past the age of intranets? Should we concentrate on disseminating good practice and let teachers use all the miriad tools available now and in the future

(Jaye had already expressed this sentiment on her blog).

It is a compelling idea. If I was still in the classroom I am pretty sure I’d be happy with using some of these tool myself rather than a set of nationally provided ones. When I was in the classroom I tended to use unconventional tools, self hosted pivot blogs and a pmwiki for example. I was happy researching and choosing what I needed.

However there are a couple of problems with this approach.

  1. Services are often blocked in schools. I recall building A flickr CC search toy so that my bloggers could easily attribute pictures for their posts. Unfortunately I could not persuade the Local Authority that Flickr was a suitable site for children.
  2. time: I was naturally inclined to spend a lot of time on the web, researching, setting up and playing around with the tools. Many teachers do not have that interest, time or sometimes the confidence in their ict skills.

These two problems were partially tackled by Glow. Glow provided a set of tools, eventually including blogs and wikis, that were otherwise unavailable in some Local Authorities. Glow also did. A great deal to encourage the penetration of ICT into the curriculum. Partially by giving teacher access to the tools but also by proving a fair bit of cash and other resources for training. The national push to get folk using Glow filtered via the Local Authorities into schools and classrooms.

I also believe that being a member of a community can be useful. A sense of being in it together, helping each other and having fellow practitioners with similar experiences and challenges could be provided by a national intranet. Although I am fairly indifferent to political nationalism I do feel identified as a Scottish educator.

Jaye also commented:

So far though, I can’t see how we could better Glew, or something similar.

No argument form me there.

Blogged with a hand knitted system

Over the next few months, our focus will be on setting out the user requirements for Glow Plus and understanding the platform requirements that will underpin it.  The members of the Group bring a wealth of experience but others will have important views to share too.  You can follow and contribute to the discussion on Twitter using #GlowPlus.

Professor Muffy Calder
from: ICT in Education Excellence Group – The view from the Chair

I’ve made the odd #glowplus tweet over the last week or two, rendered useless by: Older Tweet results for #glowplus from:johnjohnston are unavailable. Luckly, if you want to pay attention to me, I’ve also saved them on pinboard. Given the focus on user and platform requirements I though I might expand a bit on the links I tweeted:

We need teachers

Left to its own devices, the mob will augment, accessorize, spam, degrade and noisify whatever they have access to, until it loses beauty and function and becomes something else.

from: Seth’s Blog: A tacky mess: the masses vs. great design

For me, this post points to the fact we need teachers in the system, giving pupils, or even teacher-learners, an online space is not a solution to anything. In these spaces we need teachers to be actively involved. This is what seems to separate the likes of ds106 or Colin Maxwell’s Ed Tech Creative Collective from more automated, impersonal or self-services courses: the online involvement of the leader/teachers with the learner. We need spaces that are designed to make interaction between teacher and learner as easy as possible.

For example, glow provides wordpress blogs, the wordpress technology can tick many boxes (see again ds106). Unfortunately the implementation in glow excludes the use of RSS and aggregation that would allow teachers to keep up with a class full of e-portfolios without many many clicks.

Watch your users

You don’t need to guess what your users might want or how they will experience your product. Just watch them.

from: Shane Pearlman Help Us Help WordPress | Smashing WordPress

This posts is for developers working on extending wordpress, I feel it will fit with any system, the main thrust of the advice is to watch your users, in our case pupils and teachers, using the system.

Most days of my working life I watch teacher, pupils or both using glow. Even watching experienced users I see their mice move to where they expect the next click to be, this is consistant, they are often disappointed. In setting out the user requirements I hope the ICT in Education Excellence Group will be able to take the time to watch users, not just relay on what their knowledge and assumptions. From the example in this post and my own experience, this need not be many users, and not take too long.

Learners owning their own spaces

I want to think of education using a vocabulary of creating, shaping, discovering, sharing, imagining and adapting, not one of owning, selling, earning, adding, collaborating, or marketing.

from: Personalization and Responsibility ~ Stephen’s Web

This, in my mind goes along with:

I’ve been blogging here for over 10 years. On my domain, running my software pushing out HTML when you visit the site on any device and RSS or ATOM when you look at it with Google Reader (which 97% of you do.) I control this domain, this software and this content. The feed is full content and the space is mine. Tim nails it so I’ll make this super clear. If you decide to use a service where you don’t control your content, you’re renting.

Own your space on the Web, and pay for it. Extra effort, but otherwise you’re a sharecropper. – Tim Bray

In a time where we are all gnashing our teeth about Twitter’s API changes that may lock out many 3rd party developers, Google Plus’s lack of content portability or lack of respect for the permalink,

from: Your words are wasted – Scott Hanselman

Which I quoted in a previous post.

Jaye, a member of the Glow – Schools IT Excellence Group, blogged about facebook replacing websites, and

Do we need to spend millions developing intranets like GlowPlus when platforms like this are or will be available.

as I commented I find this

a depressing thought. FB is a closed system centralised , easy to get info into but hard to get it out. There are a lot more interesting and exciting ideas out there. See for example this oldie: http://bavatuesdays.com/a-domain-of-ones-own/

Learners keep ownership and can enter co-operative spaces via aggregation.

I am much more excited about the possibilities the Charlie Love demonstrates with glew where sharing out as well as aggregating in is easy. The potential of using wordpress with the feedwordpress plugin, which is already a glew feature, is huge. Teachers could set up projects where pupils could join in by signing up and tagging posts on their own blog, FeedWordPress pulling together everything in the one place even though it is published in the learner’s own.

I also imagine a learner at some point, exporting their glowplus blog at some point, moving it to a domain of their own, this surely could be part of the picture of a successful Scottish life long learner?

Education Secretary Michael Russell has appointed the Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Muffy Calder to convene an ICT Excellence Group to consider the future development of the schools’ intranet ‘Glow’.

As previously indicated, the new ICT excellence group will draw on the experience and expertise of end-users, and educational technology experts to scope the long-term user-centred future of Glow.

from: Engage for Education » Archive » Glow – Schools IT Excellence Group set up (update 6 Jul 2021 link broken: archive.org)

The list of members  (archive.org) was posted yesterday. There are some great choices, personally the inclusion of Charlie Love give me great hope for the technology behind glow being flexible and adaptive.

I was a wee bit disappointed that mainstream primary education was not represented. I’ve also noticed, from the twitters a few other omissions.


ICT Excellence Group – Am I the only one really disappointed in lack of Primary on this group?? We were pioneers surely ??


ICT Excellence Group – Who on this group has a thorough insight into additional support needs and the role of ICT in support?


Very blinkered. There is more to ICT than Glow. Too many are excluded from Glow. FE, as usual, not represented.


ICT has massive positive effect on ASN pupils but their needs are different great to see teachers on panel can we ASN as well?


Make up and balance seems wrong somehow. No problem with those on group but it needs more balance, spread & depth

Of all the folk on the list I know, or have read/listened too, I would not want any to be omitted but the list could certainly do with some additions.

Blogging Au Plein Air,  after Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
Attribution License

Glew is becoming more interesting everyday. The MetaWeblogAPI is now working. This is a big deal. The MetaWebLogAPI is the code that allows you to post to a blog through a variety of software rather than through the web interface. I am writing this post on my iPad using the blogpress app. This will publish this post via the MetaWeblogAPI. I usually use textmate on my mac to write blog posts. It uses the MetaWeblogAPI too. 
Recently I’ve been asking primary pupils about how many of them own an iPod touch, often in the upper primary class it is the majority of the class.
Glow blogs never managed to have this feature enabled. A great pity. The potential for pupils blogging on the hoof is a great one. Imagine a school trip. The teacher has an iPhone, this is set to be a hotspot. Pupils are posting pictures and text while they are on the trip. iPod equipped pupils could be updating their eportfolios by grabbing photos of their artwork as it is produced. Glew blogs can now also be public on the Internet, so you can see my first Mobile test made with BlogPress on my iPhone and a Blogsy test made from an iPad.  – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Like quite a few folk I’ve been kicking the tyres of Glew a wee bit over the last week or so. One very interesting feature is a plugin that Charlie has preinstalled into the wordPress blogs, FeedWordPress:

FeedWordPress is an Atom/RSS aggregator for WordPress. It syndicates content from feeds that you choose into your WordPress weblog; the content it syndicates appears as a series of special posts in your WordPress posts database. If you syndicate several feeds then you can use WordPress’s posts database and templating engine as the back-end of an aggregation (“planet”) website.

I’ve given this a quick test here: johnj (glew login needed, get one while it is hot!) where I’ve aggregated two of my blogs, my flickr stream and audioboo. The only one that doesn’t work too well is the audioboo one as the plugin does not grab the attachment.

I’ve only given this a quick test, but it seems to work very well. There are lots of options for adding categories or tags to posts from a particular feed too.

This could be used for either collecting things from a variety of publishing platforms to one blog, or perhaps be the holy grail for teacher struggling with the current glows e-portfolios: collecting all of your pupils post in the one place. The current glow solution of this is to have a list of links in glow that the teachers can click on to visit blog. I’ve told as many folk as I can that it is better to save a folder of bookmarks in their browser and open in tabs but this is not ideal.

FeedWordPress will handle a lot of blogs over in DS106 is pulling in over 500 blogs and spitting them out in lots of interesting ways (for example Dynamic OPML Files Generated from FeedWordPress).

For those interested in e-portfolios Glew also has the Mahara ePortfolio System, open source e-portfolio and social networking software built in.