Glow mentor meeting

East Lothian Glow mentors met today at The Gothenburg in PrestonPans - here's the agenda.

I missed the afternoon (visiting Ross High School), but thoroughly enjoyed the morning.

Karen Robertson began the morning with an overview of where we are and where we are going.

Alan Yeoman then spoke to us about the training programme for Glow mentors, and I was very impressed by what he had to say. Whilst the Glow launch at SETT was a disappointment, with the feeling that it was underprepared, Alan's presentation today showed that they have been doing some serious thinking about how to prepare us for our roles as mentors.

The residential training at Stirling may include sessions on ACfE and the theory of co-coaching, for example. I had been concerned that the training would focus upon the basics of the use of the Glow portal tools. In fact, as Alan said, most teachers won't need any training to use the tools - if you can use a web browser, you've already got most of the technical skills you need.

Alan told us that VLE training is not going to be part of the residential training. The cynic in me can't help wondering whether that's because it won't be ready by then!

After coffee, Don Ledingham spoke to us about the vision. He ran us through his multiple metaphor model, which I have to say made a lot more sense than when I read about it on his blog - there is sometimes no substitute for face-to-face meetings! A lot of what Don said about the role of Glow mentor applies equally to my secondment so I found it very useful.

Towards the end of the morning, Ewan McIntosh raised an interesting challenge. To paraphrase him, "Most of the tools in Glow are already available for free online now. Hardly anyone is using them. Simply putting them within Glow will not guarantee that they begin to use them"


  1. Glad you enjoyed the meeting Robert - I was really keen to get to the meeting for the morning myself, but got tied down in school. I hope the afternoon went as well as the morning.

  2. Sounds like it was a good meeting, Robert. Some interesting points raised that i'm happy to try to answer (with the exception in this comment of Ewan's question - that deserves a more thoughtful, and thought through, answer).

    The phasing of the technical development for Glow means that, yes, the VLE will be the last component integrated into the whole package - it's in the nature of this particular beast that the VLE has to work alongside the collaborative tools, so the integration of all of the collaborative tools has to be completed first. However, the current timescales mean that the integration of most of the collaborative tools should be completed by around Jan/Feb next year, and the work on integrating the VLE will start at that point. However, the VLE itself is already under development, and Jim Buchan already runs a steering group including people from all over the country whose task it is to oversee that particular development.

    In terms of the training, the decision was taken that the training for the collaborative environment would be best done in an eclectic group including people from various authorities - hence the 2 days at Stirling. But it was felt that the training on the VLE would be best done in the mentor's own authority -so the plan is to run the two days at Stirling, followed later by a day and a half (or so) on the VLE with each group of mentors in their own authority. The timing of the VLE training will be for each group of mentors to agree with the Glow team who will be leading the training.

    Cheers, John

    ps thanks for the gmail invite!

  3. Ewan's question, of course, is the challenge we all have to meet over the next couple of years. I believe that the particular package of tools and applications being offered within Glow will be intrinsically useful to teachers, but, of course, that is no guarantee that they will use them.

    The big difference, as far as I am concerned, is the fact that they will no longer be a collection of disparate and disconnected applications, most of them client-based, each with its own set of standards, its own interface etc. Instead, they will all be browser-based, they will all have a similar look and feel to them, they will all be fully integrated, and - crucially - that same set of integrated tools and applications will be available to every teacher and every pupil in the land.

    To use Skype you have to know others who use Skype; to use Marratech, you have to know others who use Marratech; to use a particular chat client....etc etc.....

    With Glow, the fact that all these tools are available to everyone in the country, and the fact that they will be tied tightly together by means of the national authentication system and user directory will mean that contact with any other individual, or for that matter any other group that you wish to define or that has already been set up by someone else, will be a simple matter.

    But that still leaves a big job for us all to do, and I think a large chuck of that job will fall on the shoulders of the mentors - showing teachers just how easy it is to use, just how easy it is to make contact with anyone else on the system, and just how easy it will be for them to begin to set up groups of their own devising to collaborate with. And Alan Yeoman's point about the nature of the training here is critical - it will not be about the nuts and bolts, but about what value Glow will be to the teaching and learning in our schools, and how it can be used to enhance the educational process!

    I have a basic trust in the quality of the mentors that are coming forward that we will have a really productive and invaluable cadre of educators to push the benefits of Glow from Day 1 - and it won't simply be about content (or 'stuff'), the key value will be in that combination of collaborative environment and the authentication system.

    And when we add in what the social networking tools can do for learning (whether inside Glow eventually or not), well.......

  4. Thanks for these most informative comments John. The decisions about VLE training seem very sensible to me.

    Perhaps Ewan will notice this dialogue at some point and put me right about what he really said. In the meantime.... I think that you've framed the challenge very clearly. I agree that Glow will reduce barriers to the use of these technologies, and that has to be a good thing.

    The challenge for mentors is, as you say, at a higher level than just the provision of technical skills. Our job is both harder and more interesting than that.

    I'd like to pick up particularly on the point you make about it not being "simply about content". I think this is really important. At this morning's meeting several people seemed to think that the populating of Glow with resources was going to be key to the successful marketing of Glow. I disagree. If we are pinning our hopes on resource sharing as the "killer app" for Glow, we are in trouble. I've been around long enough to see many attempts to set up online resource sharing in Scotland (remember the scottish virtual teachers' centre?) and none so far have been very successful. The fundamental problem is that people want to share complete lessons and as Billy Bragg said, "you can borrow ideas but you can't borrow situations". I'm optimistic that effective tagging and the sharing of smaller morcels will make Glow resource sharing more successful, but this is not what will make Glow sink or swim. It's the collaborative, social aspect that's the killer app.

  5. Hi guys,
    You got what I said spot on. I think the challenge will be there, however big or small it turns out to be, to get teachers to see the point in collaborating. A lot of teachers are used to working alone and like it that way. I was reassured by Don's explicitness on the responsibility of teachers to get out of that mindset but, as a colleague said, Don doesn't 'sound like' a head of education when he says this. Perhaps other local authorities might not be so explicit and the glow mentors' job will be that little bit more difficult.

    However, staying optimistic, the fact that all these tools are under one roof will provide a great intro to this way of working for the majority. In the long term, there will be demand for more cmplex social tools to involve more people on different levels of collaboration. I can't wait to see what demands come to the surface over time.

  6. I've had a particular take on this vexed issue of content .v. collaboration for a long time (although, of course, they aren't actually in opposition to each other). When we were talking to anyone who would listen to us during 2002 - 2004 about what this SSDN thing might look like, teachers (as opposed to ex-teachers like me) always pinpointed 'stuff' as being at the top of their wish list. I always tried to explain how important the whole area of collaboration would prove to be in time, but few really bought it as the main reason for 'doing an SSDN' at the time.

    I guess, for many teachers, to be fair, it was a question of 'we don't know what we don't know' - sounds a bit Donald Rumsfeld-ish!! - in other words, teachers like to have lots of resources to play with and they saw SSDN/Glow as a means to get their hands on lots of new resources. So resources were seen as the main raison d'etre for Glow.

    So - rather than try to persuade otherwise (and, of course, content IS important in any case) we have been working on the assumption that, in order to achieve a quick win with teachers when Glow goes live, it will have to make available a reasonable tranche of content (stuff!) from Day 1. Only gradually, perhaps, will we be able to persuade teachers that, hey, there's something in here that is just as important - and maybe more important - than stuff, namely all the collaborative tools that will allow you to bring your pupils together with others from across Scotland or across the world.

    In the meantime, of course, the social networking tools have appeared over the horizon. I believe that, over the next year, we should be able to use blogs, wikis, etc to persuade more and more teachers that collaboration is the central attribute of Glow and of the Web 2.0 tools themselves (it's just obvious with the latter!), so that by the time Glow goes live, more of our teachers will be willing to look beyond 'stuff' as the main success factor for the national system.

  7. John - as ever, it's fascinating to hear straight from the horse's mouth (so to speak!) what the thinking has been within the Glow team. Now I'm impatient to see the "stuff"!

  8. I was pleased to stumble upon this blog tonight even though I should be upstairs talking to my wife on a Friday night so one quick question if you can indulge me to change the subject a little bit.
    I would like to raise the future of forums like "Sputnik" which is a well used and very successful forum hosted by the Institute of Physics.
    My question is:Will the IOP and Sputnik be carrying on as before and compete in parallel with glow as it is proving to be a great success
    Will it decide not to compete and "glow out" to die in order to immediately resurrect itself (yes like the phoenix) in the form of a Sputnik glow group and nest happily and brighter than ever inside the new glow portal?
    I feel everybody especially the national organisations should be taken on board a early as possible.
    Any thoughts?

  9. Hi Hamish.

    Whilst not in any way qualified to answer your question, I would say that members of existing online communities will probably continue to use them, unless Glow can offer some compelling new functionality. If John doesn't chip in here, I'd suggest that you ask him on his blog - follow the link on the right!

  10. Hamish/Robert,

    Sorry I missed this until Hamish emailed me. The answer is a simple one: that it will be up to anyone who is already currently running any kind of local or national forum to decide if and when they might wish to move their forum onto Glow. If, as Robert notes, you do not feel that Glow gives you the same or better functionality than your current set-up, then there will be no problem with your forum continuing to co-exist separately.

    However, Glow will give you, apart from the interest-group functionality, access to all the collaborative tools to use as well for your forum members. So, as well as threaded discussions, shared areas or whatever else you might enjoy within Sputnik, your members will also be able to communicate via the desktop video/audio conferencing tools, virtual whiteboard, application sharing, chat rooms, mailing lists, and so on.

    Get back to me if you need any other info.



  11. I am not just a digital immigrant but a refugee - someone who has taught for over 30 years and can word process quite well an dwho is still greastly influenced by Freire's Deschooling Society!

    Some of the above discussion is scarey, some comforting. There is a temptation for the techies to blind the rest of us with jargon. Yes, teachers want 'stuff' but partly I suspect because they don't necessarily know what Skye, blogging, wikis, etc. are. (Actually the fount of all knowledge in my house - a 15 year old girl - doesn't really know either - nor does she play games although she is sugically welded to MSN, ipod, etc.)

    What teachers do increasingly understand - enhanced by such bottom up processes as AifL - is that the most effective learning occurs in social situations. 'Think, Pair Share' is now part of most teachers' vocabulary, for example. Many teachers have now actually heard of Vygotsky and the ZPD (more jargon, I know) and celebrate this underpinning of their instinctive beliefs about pedagogy. In order to ensure that our colleagues are excited rather than intimidated by the advent of Glow we need to speak their language as well as demonstrate that we are on a learning curve too.

    Rather than discrete content, what I need are exemplars - the sort we tried to develop way back in 2003, John - to help me understand how it may work so I can more clearly faciltiate that comprehension in my colleagues.

  12. Hi Hilery. We don't mean to be scary! Most of the buzzwords of Web2.0 - blogging, wikis, podcasting etc will not be in the first version of Glow. Whether you see that as a good or bad thing depends on your perspective.

    Isn't AifL strangely good? When it first came appeared on the horizon, I must admit that I thought "oh dear, here comes another initiative", but it's turned out to be the most worthwhile development in education that I've seen in 16 years at the chalkface [when will that expression die out I wonder?].

    I must confess that I had to look up ZPD - once I decoded the TLA, I was with you though :)

    Exemplars are where Web2.0 in education gets interesting. Are the fascinating things being done by enthusiasts like those at Teachmeet06 really replicable on a larger scale, or do their successes rely on an innovator's enthusiasm? The jury's still out on that one!

  13. Thanks Robert. I'll check out Teachmeet06. Nice to know I know some jargon you don't!

    Apologies for the incorrect reference - Illych wrote Deschooling Society. But I like Freire too!

    We need to harness enthusiasm - it's well known that that's a major characteristic of good teachers! As long as they move at the pace of the learners that is. That is the key to making change rather than innovation.

  14. You're apparently not alone in having trouble with geeky jargon - see today's BBC story.

    Amazingly, I have that thin green paperback on my bookshelf. Quite prescient really, the way that Illich talks about "learning webs".

  15. I think the best exemplars around Glow, Hilery, will come from you and your Glow mentor colleagues around the country. It is the mentors who will be getting their hands on the full Glow package first, and my guess is that some of the best initial practice might come out of real teachers using the real thing with real students. That, I guess, was why, if you remember, our first attempt to come up with scenarios/exemplars was less than successful.

    Just finished re-reading Paulo Freire's 'Pedagogy of Freedom', by the way.......


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