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Glow: the world’s first national intranet and online community for education
by Andrew Brown


Launched in 2007, Glow has evolved rapidly over the past three years. It is managed by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), the body responsible for developing and supporting the curriculum in Scotland including exploring, promoting and developing new technology in education. Glow is funded by the Scottish Government and has been developed by RM. 

The network was designed to revolutionise how teachers, pupils and parents interact by breaking down geographical and social barriers through its safe and secure online community. It provides opportunities to link teachers, schools and pupils to provide a truly joined-up approach to education and promote collaboration and the sharing of projects and best practice across the country. Glow does that by providing the tools to enable joined-up working the length and breadth of Scotland.

Glow has the potential to change and improve learning and teaching approaches. For example, the sharing of ideas helps teachers and pupils to learn in different ways through co-construction of new knowledge and to make thinking explicit, enabling ideas to be discussed, questioned and challenged to deepen and improve understanding.

There is evidence to show that Glow is transforming the way the curriculum is delivered in Scotland. For example, the video conference facility, Glow Meet, provides access to expertise, new ideas and thinking. Last year thousands of teachers and pupils benefited by hearing from and speaking with a wide range of experts through Glow, such as NASA astronauts and Dr Who writer and director Steven Moffat. Pupils are able to share their work and see what other schools in the country are doing. During the recent adverse weather, schools in Aberdeenshire and other parts of Scotland used Glow to minimise disruption to education.

The Roll-out of Glow

Prior to its launch at the Scottish Learning Festival in 2007, Glow was piloted in 13 local authorities and with 3000 users. The feedback from this trial saw many improvements made to Glow before it was launched in full. LTS worked closely with local authorities, piloting Glow over a number of stages and introducing new components as a result of each. By the end of 2010 all 32 Scottish local authorities and all seven Scottish higher education institutes had signed-up to access Glow, benefiting from support to enhance the quality of learning and teaching and is a vital tool in supporting the implementation of Scotland’s new curriculum for all children aged 3 to 18, Curriculum for Excellence.

What does Glow do?

Glow allows sharing and collaboration across Scotland and beyond. It provides access to information and activities across all areas of the curriculum to help children learn and it enables professional dialogue between teachers, providing them with peer support by sharing resources and ideas in innovative ways.

Interactive activities, games, revision papers, links to other sites, news features and other resources provide structure to personalised learning and make it relevant to pupils, which are key principles of Curriculum for Excellence. Glow is proving to be an essential learning tool, providing:

  • A trusted and safe environment for pupils, teachers and parents
  • An area to create personalised programmes of work and share curricular resources
  • A variety of online tools to enhance learning experiences
  • Virtual learning to share information and take part in a lesson
  • Tools to enable communication and collaboration across the network

Glow began a period of enhancement based on user feedback in October 2009. RM – the solution provider for Glow – has delivered a series of improvements to the service, creating an enriched user experience. These changes have come as a direct result of comments received by through a variety of channels including the online discussion forums and help group. As part of the refresh, a suite of new functions are being brought on board to further assist teachers as they work towards full adoption of the new curriculum.

 

Figure 1: Glow’s National Site, keeping users up-to-date with national developments

Figure 1: Glow’s National Site, keeping users up-to-date with national developments

Key features of Glow

1. The Interconnect

The Interconnect 2.0 facilitates the delivery of the digital content to each local authority's datacentre boundary. Managed by LTS and delivered by THUS and JANET (UK) it provides high bandwidth communications between the local authorities, the Glow datacentre and other national bodies such as LTS, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and SEEMIS.

2.  Glow Light

The Glow Light homepage was developed after user feedback highlighting the need for an easier to navigate homepage. With simple presentation and clear buttons, Glow Light allows users to access their most used areas of Glow instantly. Glow Light is easily customisable, providing users with the tools to add or remove buttons easily, making Glow more user-friendly and accessible.

3. Glow Groups

Glow Groups can be established for numerous purposes. A Glow Group is an ideal setting to work on a project or theme with a class or colleagues. It can then be used as a resource bank for members to discuss ideas, access learning materials, upload their work and gain feedback from their peers. Features such as Glow Meet and Glow Chat allow easy and secure collaboration within a Glow Group, providing teachers and pupils with the tools to communicate from various locations. Teachers can modify settings easily to allow pupils to run a Glow Group. This provides pupils with a secure environment for activities such as school councils which allow members to gather feedback from other pupils through features such as discussion boards, surveys, chat rooms, blogs and forums.

 

Figure 2: An interactive Glow Group designed to support practitioners in the implementation of national framework for assessment

Figure 2: An interactive Glow Group designed to support practitioners in the implementation of national framework for assessment

4. Glow Forums

Glow Forums allow interaction in a user-friendly environment. It is simple to navigate through forums, follow discussion threads and exchange professional views and advice with colleagues across Scotland. A Glow Forum can be used to create rich discussion around topics teachers are looking at in the classroom and they offer pupils the opportunity to support each other and to collaborate with other groups.  Forums are the ideal place for school staff to develop successful online learning communities and can be used to:

  • Conduct online polls
  • Gather feedback
  • Enhance communication with pupils
  • Facilitate discussion between pupils

5. Glow Blogs

Glow Blogs provide a powerful and flexible tool for collaborative learning which can be used to support the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence. Glow Blogs can be used to update content, add images, and publish resources so that they are visible by one class only or a whole school. Glow Blogs can provide information to specific groups, as both a learning log and e-portfolio for young people to showcase their achievements. Glow Blogs can be used in place of expensively maintained school websites, giving pupils a voice and offering a tool to allow for increased communication between pupils, teachers and home.

6.  Glow Meet

Glow Meet is a web conferencing tool making it possible to communicate through audio, video and text, as well as shared access to a virtual whiteboard, documents, images and applications. Users can use Glow Meet individually, in small groups or with the use of a projector and screen enabling a whole class to share a single connection.

Glow Meet can be used to enhance and support learning and teaching in a multitude of contexts, including:

  • Allowing classes across schools, local authorities and worldwide to collaborate on projects
  • Offering pupils the opportunity to take subjects that are not offered in their own school
  • Enabling teachers to team-teach with colleagues, sharing subject expertise or approaches to a topic
  • Giving pupils access to experts across the world
  • Encouraging pupils to communicate with ‘video pals’, experiencing diverse cultures and ways of life, both economic, ethnic and providing an excellent opportunity for foreign language practice 

Recognition of success

In May 2009, Glow was awarded the top platinum award at the IMS Global Learning Impact Awards, which recognise outstanding use of technology worldwide in support of learning. This recognition of Glow on the world stage illustrated its valuable application in Scotland’s classrooms.

Since its launch, the national Glow team at LTS has strived to continuously improve Glow. In 2010 a major Glow marketing campaign, Glow Refresh, was launched. As part of this campaign to improve Glow, LTS engaged in a nationwide discussion with the education community, asking what improvements and developments they would like to see.

Following this feedback, Glow went through an extensive period of enhancement and as a result a number of new components and features were introduced. These included an easier to navigate homepage known as Glow Light, the opportunity to publish and share information with Glow Blogs and an area to interact with other users in Glow Forums. Other improvements encompassed an increased log out time, a new Glow Mail interface and an enhanced search function.

Figure 3: Glow Light provides an easier to navigate home page

Figure 3: Glow Light provides an easier to navigate home page

Glow in the snow

During the recent prolonged spell of poor weather across the UK, a number of Scottish local authorities were praised by the Scottish Government for using innovative teaching methods - despite their schools being closed. Aberdeenshire Council arranged a number of learning activities in literacy, numeracy and science for pupils through Glow. SNOW GLOW was an initiative for Primary pupils to log into remotely with creative writing, photographs, and outdoor activities a key part. West Lothian Council also posted a wide range of work ensuring their pupils continued to learn even when they could not physically get to the classroom.

Case study: Using Glow to support learning in upper primary

Geraldine Shearer, Principal Teacher of Cathedral Primary School in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire used Glow to share ideas and resources with her Primary 7 class, allowing the pupils to work together across the curriculum. Geraldine created a class Glow group to support Curriculum for Excellence and to gather evidence of pupils’ experiences. Within the Glow group Geraldine added pages for language, maths and social subjects. To provide differentiated content, she created pages for each language and maths grouping within her class. Using the various pages, Geraldine was able to provide specific work and targets for each ability group.

Pupils were encouraged to view the Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes they would cover in each subject and were given the opportunity to set targets for themselves, creating a Personal Learning Plan for literacy, numeracy and social subject areas. Photographs were added to each group in order to give pupils ownership of their own working space.

Using Glow Meet, Geraldine and the Primary 7 class worked on a joint project with their associated secondary, Our Lady’s High School. This project involved all associated primary schools and focused on exploring why people migrate to Scotland. Geraldine used picture manager in social subjects pages to celebrate the children’s work. Geraldine also uploaded video footage of the children creating a volcano during a science experiment, making the Glow group come alive, and allowing the children to revisit the work.  

Learning by example

Glow 'cookbooks' were developed to encourage teachers to share successful Glow projects, offering step by step guides on how Glow was used to enhance learning and teaching. Aiming to inspire teachers to use Glow for their own projects, Glow cookbooks detail the Glow components used in a project, how they were utilised and the impact upon learning.

Glow cookbooks now offer hundreds of examples of inspirational uses of Glow. Following the traditional cookbook approach, they contain the ingredients - which Glow components have been used, advice on how the components were used, a short ‘how to’ video, and the end product' - a description of the impact from the teachers or pupils involved.

View the cookbooks at: http://cookbooks.glowscotland.org.uk.

Keep on glowing

Glow has attracted attention from around world for its innovation and unique approach to enhancing learning and teaching in Scotland, since 2009 23 countries have requested to visit Learning and Teaching Scotland to learn how to take forward its innovative ideas.

Over 650,000 young people and adults have now registered on Glow and to date the total number of log-ins has exceeded 12 million. This is a remarkable achievement, but in a quest for continuous improvement, new plans are constantly being developed to enhance and promote Glow further.

Find out more about Glow at: www.ltscotland.org.uk

Figure 4: Some Local Authorities are now rolling Glow out to Parents & Carers

Figure 4: Some Local Authorities are now rolling Glow out to Parents & Carers

Andrew Brown
Learning and Teaching Scotland

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