It’s Not About You…

Mention NOF Training round these parts and certain teachers will start to choke on their energy bars, break into a cold sweat or harumph out of the staffroom. NOF (New Opportunities Fund) Training took place around about ten years ago and was an ICT training programme which all teachers, as far as I am aware, HAD to undergo, regardless of previous knowledge and ability. Everyone was given one of those big shiny folders which authorities like so much and each school had designated trainers who helped staff through the course. I was one of those trainers. Here’s some money; anyone have any old rope? It’s a deal!

As far as I remember NOF caused as many problems as it solved. The resentment from those who were way ahead of what NOF had to offer appeared to isolate a whole host of ICT experts who could have transformed the way we use technology in schools. However the reality was that, in my school anyway, more than 50% of all teaching staff claimed they either couldn’t or were not comfortable in using even e-mail and the Internet. Afterwards my fellow trainers and I patted ourselves on the backs when we got all staff up to a minimum standard. At huge cost. Never mind. I had a great holiday that year.

Ten years later and I feel we may be heading the same way with Glow. I love Glow. Or at least have loved Glow. Two years ago I had barely moved on from e-mail and Internet and rarely used either in the class. I had heard the complaints about Glow: the inaccessibility; the complicated set up; the problematic page creation system; but I wanted to have a go myself. From scratch I got stuck in and found out about creating content. Now, over the last two years, I have used Blogs, Chatrooms, Homework Drop, Discussion pages and lots more. I couldn’t do that before. I can now.

Yes, I know there are better ways out there. I know I could have done all of those things perhaps more easily. But I did not have the confidence or skill sets to even start. Glow allowed me to do a lot of these things in, what I considered, a safe and supportive environment. You may say that others are safe too but please don’t underestimate my perception of what safe and supportive may be. What I will add is that it might be time for me to move on from Glow. I now have the skills to do more than it seems to offer.

However, on a daily basis, I continue to praise and publicise Glow in school. I look around and see the ICT resistors but I also see teachers who lack the confidence to use technology in their classrooms. They are out there; and constantly claiming that Glow doesn’t do the things it should is not helpful to someone who knows nothing. And in my narrow experience, I have found that many teachers who say that you could could create a better Blog or Wiki outside of Glow are often not doing so.

Where Glow needs to and can work at the moment is in a similar way to what happened with NOF. Focus on getting every teacher Blogging and such like and I think it will have been more successful. Not what was intended, YET, but significant progress. And it requires us all to help them do that. We too often forget that it’s not about us. If you’re using great ICT in the class then that’s wonderful but next door might not be. A lot of teachers are intimidated by you, believe it or not. I’ll continue to help them access Glow because it’s a start. And that means something. To criticise Glow and expect more is not only our right as teachers in Scotland it is our duty. A lot of money has been spent on it and we should want it to work. But maybe small steps are okay at the moment.

Until Glow is much much better, I don’t think we can expect much more than a NOF style raising of the bar for all teachers. I am thinking of moving on from Glow. But it’s not about me…

2 thoughts on “It’s Not About You…

  1. Not heard of GLOW before – is it some sort of VLE platform? @Timbuckteeth tweeted this sad statement recently: institutional VLEs are where content goes to die.

    I am resolved to use blogging with my classes this year – any advice?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments here, Kenny. Like you, I’ve invested a lot of time and effort in using Glow and would happily extol its virtues to anyone who would listen.

    On more than one occasion I have been asked to assist colleagues in setting things up on Glow, and showcase features of Glow at in service training and staff meetings, in my Glow mentor role. In general colleagues have been positive about what they’ve seen, but see Glow as an ‘extra’ thing to do, rather than as a potentially integral part of learning and teaching. Seen in this light, developing the skills necessary to make meaningful use of Glow comes quite far down the priority list with CfE development ongoing, National 4 & 5 on the horizon and new Higher and Advanced Higher courses on their heels.

    Furthermore, the perception of Glow as an ‘extra’ gives greater currency to the argument that there’s a ‘lack of time’. By taking an integrated approach to Glow, much of the work people are already doing will still be done, just differently, within the Glow portal.

    The ‘lack of time’ argument is entirely valid for those starting out with Glow – it is an incredibly steep learning curve, which might be partly addressed by a NOF training style of approach, but needs regular, meaningful use to gain confidence.

    One of NOF’s many failings was that it made trainees do conduct tasks simply for the sake of doing them, rather than for any useful purpose. Having tried a ‘sandbox’ approach to Glow training with colleagues, I can confirm that this approach doesn’t work for Glow either.

    I hadn’t thought of sticking to one tool in Glow and encouraging staff to use it, but perhaps some growth in engagement can be achieved by encouraging colleagues to blog, either personally, or for their classes.

    Now to compile a short list of blogs to encourage and inspire others……

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