Technologies for Learning Workshop

Yesterday I attend the Technologies for Learning Workshop which was intended to

form part of the initial exploration work contributing to the potential development of a Scottish Government Technologies for Learning Strategy.

The invite came out of the blue a couple of weeks ago and I was unsure what to expect. As I approached the venue Twitter let me know that I would see quite a few folk from the ScotEdublog world and when I arrived It looked like a TeachMeet crowd. The event was nicely organised by the IFF folk who started off three main segments of the day. The discussion was more wide-ranging than I expected and there was less nitty gritty about the workings and interface of glow than I expected and a good deal more looking at larger questions. Thankfully there was not the expectation that conclusions were made as I left with questions rather than answers.

Fearghal Kelly, Technologies for Learning Strategy, Andrea Reid, Trust « Interim reports and Neil Winton, #ediff « If You Don’t Like Change…, have already blogged some reflections and David Gilmour has posted photos of the whiteboards on flickr Technologies for Learning Strategy Workshop

I am certainly the wrong person to try and give an overview of the day. I usually find myself focusing on trees rather than the woods and this workshop was viewing the forrest.


One of the trees was related to both the workshop and the wider online community. Near the end of the day a lady, whose name I didn’t catch but was someone from the government end rather than an educator, expressed doubts to the value of twitter. During the day a lot of tweeting using the #ediff had gone on. It was suggested that this was rude, to the presenters and of little real value, due to the quality of some of the tweets. Con Morris, CPDScotsman, robustly defended twitter explaining how it saved a stream of links, pass references to other participants and allowed people to join in from a distance. There were a few folk who did join in from afar so I think Con proved his point.

I didn’t tweet much during the day, but one I was struck enough by some thing Pat Kane was talking about to fire out a tweet:

john johnston

@playethic hacking&play good. Facebook&gaming less so #ediff
Fri Oct 15 11:59:03 +0000 2010 from Twitter for iPad captured: Sat, 16 Oct 10 14:40:29 +0100

Pat caught my attention by talking about the difference between facebook (“relentless processes of inclusion, exclusion and meritocratic struggle”) and the hacker culture (“subverting technology till it breaks, so that better tech can be built”) which he compared with the difference between gaming and playing. Quotes from Pat Kane’s CalMerc column at Thoughtland.

This caught my attention because I’d been reading Charlie Love’s post: A social network for Education?. I liked this post so much I’d read it 3 times and nearly printed it out to take to the workshop. I’ve had a long standing dislike/distrust of facebook and a preference for a loose network (delicious, flickr, blogs, RSS) and this post started me thinking that I have missed a lot of goodness that could be gathered from a social network for Education. Pat’s points were a interesting take on this.

I am not reaching any conclusion just mulling over, so was surprised by this tweet from Derek:

Derek P Robertson

johnjohnston @playethic Please clarify what you mean by gaming not being good. In what educational context is this being framed? #ediff
Fri Oct 15 11:59:03 +0000 2010 from web captured: Sat, 16 Oct 10 15:47:40 +0100

given Derek’s role as Guardian of Games Based Learning in Scotland I suppose it was easy for him to reach the conclusion that some games bashing was going on.

Derek P Robertson

johnjohnston Yes hopefully. Disconcerting to see such tweets from this event. Clarification would be very helpfu as gbl good in Scottish ed 15 Oct

to which I replied:

john johnston

@derekrobertson sorry to disconcert. Struck me as interesting pt. Game are subset of play?
Fri Oct 15 14:23:10 +0000 2010 from Twitter for iPad captured: Sat, 16 Oct 10 17:27:59 +0100

The conversation then continued through the evening:

pat kane

@ewanmcintosh @johnjohnston @derekrobertson Play‚?Game. Play’s more than contestation/teamwork. It’s mess, mocking, mimicry, free ideation
Fri Oct 15 20:17:56 +0000 2010 from Twitter for iPhone captured: Sat, 16 Oct 10 17:30:00 +0100

Derek P Robertson

@theplayethic @ewanmcintosh @johnjohnston Agreed but contestation can be with oneself and not with others – a self-improvement agenda.

and again this morning:

Fearghal Kelly

The message I took from it [not sure if intended one] was that we need to think carefully about the learning not just the game? #gbldebate
Sat Oct 16 09:47:16 +0000 2010 from web captured: Sat, 16 Oct 10 17:35:07 +0100

And many more.

Interesting (to me) points about twitter:

  • Even experienced tweeters can misunderstand each other/
  • I probably got a better discussion than I intended by my tweet being seen a critical of games (it was not intended to be).
  • Tweets can really stimulate discussion and thought.
  • As the conversation goes on, loses tags and become more distributed it is harder to follow, I stopped getting included in replies and the gag dropped off.

At the meeting yesterday one of the ideas was to challenge all preconceptions, eg does Scotland need an intranet?, will we need classrooms and more. Having Pat Kane speak and Ewan take part provided some vital/interesting disruption. Challenging games based learning or any other type of learning went with the flow of the day. I can see how it might be if you look at it through a games visor. Pat’s idea of play gives us an ideal of learning that we will almost always fall short of.

Some Gaming Thoughts

A lot of games in school are used for drill & practise and there is a place for that, other uses embed gaming in a more complex learning scene (Endless Ocean using the Wii for example). Derek has provided us with lots of examples of all sorts.

The other aspect of gaming that I’ve found more interesting is game making, this might give more opportunity for Pat’s play than playing games. Derek’s consolerium team have been providing a ton of resources for this It could be seen as hacking (in Pat’s positive sense) which I find compelling. In own learning the things I’ve enjoyed most (? most productive) have been amateur attempts at hacking.

An amateur hack

While thinking about this post I realised that I wanted to quote quite a few tweets. Twitter provides a tool to do this: Blackbird Pie – Twitter Media I was under the (wrong) impression that this used iframes (I was wrong) and the live tweet and I wanted static html, so I made my own I also figured out how to make a javascript bookmarklet for the first time.

To my mind spontaneous self directed play is an ideal to keep in the back of our minds while we do a bit of drill & practice and muddle towards CfE.

Thoughts from the day

Important questions raised:

  1. Do we need an intranet/use google apps
  2. Security (a lot of the current came from LAs) can we have a sliding scale. IMO the recent additions to glow are addressing this
  3. How does Scotland organise training/CPD

Questions I though could have done with more coverage:

There was talk of the need for better broadband across Scotland, but I feel hardware is more of a problem. until recently I would have agreed with the general opinion in the room that we will end up using the pupils own devices, but I’ve recently read: Fraser Speirs – Blog – Run What Ya Brung which raises a lot of questions perhaps the most important being: It (the idea of pupils using their own devices) assumes that teachers will be aware of the differences between devices and able and willing to plan around or overcome them. . I’ve seen examples of ‘byo’ working, but wonder if it is scalable in the light of the varying skills of teachers.

There was the assumption that glow 2 would work better than glow 1, I would have liked to discuss how this would be done. not necessarily in nit picking detail (I’ve done a bit of that ) but on how the nit picking would be organised. with glow one there was no mechanism for feedback to be taken into account quickly, or for detailed beta testing. I hope glow 2 will have perpetual beta built in.


I am afraid the above is a bit of a muddle that does not reflect much of Friday. I’d recommend interested folk to read:

and check the #ediff twitter search.

Update 18 Oct 2010

Talking about it isn’t good enough / But quoting from linking to it at least demonstrates / The virtue of an art that knows its mind. // Seamus Heaney : Squarings (edited for post;))

NB. posted in annoyance!

A while ago I took the time to fill in the survey on the Glow Futures home page, and had a quick look at the forums. Like most other folk in education I am quite busy but intended to add my 2 pence worth. I’ve revisited the site a few times but quite often it loads slowly or just show me a blank page.

Today as I am on holiday I though I’d take the time to add something to the debate. After a frustration half hour I though it worth posting my experience here, as I doubt many folk will have the patience to read about it on the forum if their experience is anything like mine.

On the forum I again found I have to frequently refresh the page after looking at a blank one while browsing the forum. This is quite off putting. I did find a topic that I though I could add to: How can Glow become more appealing?. As I went through the process of posting my post changed to become a log of the process I had to go through to post to the forum (too much recursion?). Here is what I posted:

Alex Duff said:

What needs to change in Glow so that it becomes more appealing to more teachers?


Although this forum is not in glow it feels glow like to me:

  1. Arrive on forum page (often need to refresh to see anything)
  2. Click login
  3. Taken to a login page which advises I login via glow
  4. Click glow login button
  5. shibboleth page appears
  6. redirect to glow
  7. login
  8. shibboleth page appears
  9. redirected to my profile
  10. click forum
  11. Read a post & click quote to reply
  12. quote doesn’t appear
  13. Switch browsers and repeat steps 1 to 11

I’ve forgotten what I was going to type.

Admittedly this is a worst case picture, but not unlike the number of clicks needed to do something in glow.

Trying to explain to primary 3 that they need to click and hold the back button to skip past shibboleth so that they can add their purple mash creation to the glow group that they started from is not always easy.

Just resized the text field I am typing in, now can’t scroll field have to use arrow keys to go back up and check what I typed.

On the blog issue I am happy enough with wordpress, I don’t think you can run tumbler on your own server so it could not be part of glow. But everyone will have their favourite blog platform, mine is posterous:-)

This session most of my day to day work has involved glow, I’ve been creating content in glow, training staff and worked in classrooms with glow in demonstration lessons and team teaching. I still love the idea of glow, the conceit (in a good way) of having a national intranet providing a fantastic toolkit for teaching and learning is wonderful indeed. I am quite familiar with a lot of the glow groups tools and have been able to bend them to my needs fairly successfully, I’ve seen teachers create great learning opportunities with glow but…

A lot of folk I talk to have experience with glow similar to mine with the forum, things are hard to use, this will put off the less technophile. If I’d not had a bit of time on my hands I’d have given up on contributing to the future of glow on the forum. As it was due to my difficulty with the usability of the forum my contribution is pretty inarticulate and fragmentary. I wonder how many valuable contributors have been put off?