With more than £50m already spent on Glow, Education Scotland faces tough questions
Has the sheen finally come off Glow Plus, the latest iteration of Scotland's ambitious national education network?
One of the project's most vocal critical friends, educator Jaye Richards-Hill, has raised the latest concerns – that education's hopes for Glow Plus continue to be eclipsed by an overly bureaucratic procurement process – in an incisive new blog post, "Dissenting voices and counter intuitive thinking".
The article warns that the project is again slipping away from the control of the education community it is supposed to serve and warns: "Maybe we need to revisit this fundamental issue of whether there is still the appetite for a national MLE [managed learning environment] in Scotland."
The publication is likely to rekindle national discussion on the future of Glow which has already cost Scottish taxpayers many millions of pounds. Schools ICT supplier RM was originally awarded a £37.5 million contract in September 2005 to develop and deliver Glow over five years. RM was subsequently given £10m for a two-year extension in 2009, and when problems surfaced again in 2012 (see "Glow plight - pride of Scotland or 'zombie' network?" by Jaye Richards-Hill) the Scottish Government stumped up a further £5.5m for RM to continue its work. Having been paid more than £50m, RM's customers are still divided.
More educators were pulled into the project in 2012 but, roughly a year later, dissatisfaction has brewed to the point where Jaye Richards-Hill has broken the silence she has maintained since joining the project to help rethink and rebuild this national network.
No shortage of top-quality advice and support from educators
One of the questions she raises in her article is why civil servants and IT people appear to be leading the project when such illustrious educators have been available for advice. For example one of them is Professor Stephen Heppell, chairman of Learning Possibilities, the company currently implementing Wales' national education network, Hwb (which isn't even mentioned in the report on VLEs prepared for Glow on behalf of Education Scotland).
Hwb is getting good feedback from its pilot schools as the project is being rolled out to rest of the Welsh schools. It too is integrating Microsoft's Office365 online service and recently employed another of Glow's advisers, Ewan McIntosh, to inspire Hwb users with his insights into innovative curriculum design. While at a Cardiff celebration of Hwb's success so far, he was happy to share advice for Welsh educators and policy-makers on the importance of keeping the learning experiences at the heart of any national network project (see "Wales' Hwb 'being driven by learning and teaching").
"Wales' Hwb 'being driven by learning and teaching"
Scotland picks Microsoft for next phase of Glow
"Computing teacher bids to provide Glow's successor" (TESS)
More on Jaye Richards-Hill - "Jaye puts a Glow into learning" and "The Innovators – 5 Jaye Richards"
You can read her blog at www.mimanifesto.wordpress.com. She can be contacted through her website www.education.nomsindo.co.za.