Initial response to the document a “A Digital Learning Environment for Scottish Schools” – initial thoughts.

First I would like to thank the ICTEx group for publishing their interim the paper which gives some indication of the likely outcomes of their work.

I first of all want to applaud the two fundamental notions which are listed in section 3. I have always felt that teachers take front-line responsibility for standards of education in their classroom and for this reason need to be trusted to determine which resources are appropriate for use in the classroom environment. The issue of future proofing is absolutely fundamental, I see no value in implementing a system at this stage which does not have the capability to evolve as a basic characteristic.

It is my opinion that thinking has moved on since initial discussions about Glow+ started. I am pleased to see that the committee’s work has identified a number of basic requirements which are indeed in line with many of my own thoughts on the matter. I have written a number of posts in the last year and a half in which I raised issues that I considered to be important in relation to the future Glow as a national learning platform. I’m happy to note that some of these are no embedded in the ICTEx groups current thinking. ( see here for further comment

In relation to providing further constructive input to the discussions there are a few issues that I would like to raise in this post.


It is appropriate that the need for authentication system is now properly acknowledged. I do however feel that the paper falls short in its description of the functionality that the authentication system should embody. In an earlier post I referred to an authentication system which is underpinned by an account provisioning system. In addition the source of truth for such a system must be trusted. For this reason I proposed that the current method of account provisioning be retained, at least in concept. A key element of this would be that user data comes from one trusted source which is the school MIS system. This may be accepted and understood but it does not seem to be mentioned in the paper therefore I feel the need to highlight it.  If this is not the preferred option, then the group should make clear what the alternative is. ( see here for further comment

Application Services

Moving on to application services I want to endorse the concept of providing an easily accessible set of application services which are accessible through easy to use user interface. I do see one service that appears to be absent and that is any sort of social platform. Social networking today has become embedded in society and for this reason I feel that it’s essential that social networking capabilities are part of the authenticated and trusted set of services that Glow provides. ( see here for further comment

Content Store

In relation to content services the proposal for a common store which can be accessed by a number of applications is highly appropriate.  Having such a store can help overcome many of the issues that were experienced early in the original Glow project in relation to content indexing and search. I sincerely hope that this fundamental change in architecture will make it possible for the introduction of what I have referred to as a universal search capability. (see here for related comment

In section 15 the requirements are laid out as essential requisites for successful operation of future global environment. These can hardly be argued with and in fact seem to represent basic common sense. But it’s also important to recognise the difficulty of implementing Scotland wide policies and services, when we still have 32 different authorities which ultimately responsible for the delivery to the desktop.  Has the group considered how it will advance, or indeed enforce, a Scotland wide agreement on filtering and on open access to content and applications? The resolution of this issue or otherwise will make or break the group’s plans for Glow+.

Internet filtering is an issue that has been raised a number of times – particularly in recent weeks. Based on my previous experience and current knowledge I do feel it is appropriate that one solution could be implemented for the benefit of all Scottish education users. This will need to take account of the fact that there was a common network infrastructure used by both education users and other local authority users. So the filtering capability needs to be able to cater for diverse groups because of this situation.  See here for further comment

Ultimately the original vision of Glow is still relevant. That was to provide a national platform for education that could provide users the ability to access content and collaborate in order to take forward education objectives. For this reason is essential that users can be grouped based on their roles and interests. This is one area that appears to be missing from the paper. Conversations with former colleagues and people who are currently working to support ICT in Scottish education seems to indicate that Glow groups has been one of the most successful aspects of the original core portfolio of services. For this reason it should be a basic requirement going forward that these existing groups with their relates content are migrated to the new environment.

As I have stated on a number of occasions the maintenance of a continuous, but improving service is in my view a basic requirement and I hope that the committee has considered the need for a strategy to achieve this goal.  Any strategy which positions Glow+ as a project on it own with no dependencies for the current service will have the effect of taking users back to square one.  Users do need to be assured that their current investment in Glow will not be cast aside and that their content will survive any transition to the proposed platform.

Continuity in terms of content is important in the shape of resources, materials, etc – there also needs to be continuity in terms of collaborative groups already set up in Glow (and there are many of these in existence) and any websites which users have built.

Once again I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to read this document and to offer feedback on some of the issues it raises. I intend to reflect on the content of the document father and perhaps give more detailed feedback on issues that it contains.


Grandeur of the Seas – Cruise after refit

Mary and I returned from our bi-annual cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas 4 weeks ago.

Here is a quote from the Royal Caribbean web site

“Why Our Cruise Ships?

Each ship in our fleet is packed with incredible features that make your journey unforgettable.

As it happens the ship went through a refit earlier in 2012 year so our expectations were high for and enjoyable and comfortable experience.

This hope was initially dented when we boarded. We made our way straight to our cabin to drop our carry on bages before setting of to explore the ship.  Our cabin was 4070 which is located third along the corridor from the Centrum.  The Centrum is a beautiful 7 deck high atrium which was to be a focal point for many entertainment activitied throughout our 11 day cruise.  It did look very good on first impressions – but that “good feeling” lasted  no more then about 5 seconds as walked through the Centrum past the R Bar towards our cabin.  We were greeted with a quite over whelming stench of raw sewerage!  This was completely unexpected in this centre piece of grandeur ;-(

Initial feeling was that his would be a passing occurance and things would get better as  soon as we set sail.  In fact this was not to be the case and we were to experience this unwelcome smell each time we left our cabin and passed through the centrum – which we needed to do each time we left our room to engage an any activity.  There were a few occassions when the area was stench free but I would estimate that 95% of the time this unwelcome phenominum was present.

We did complain to the customer service desk and were told that many people had also done the same.  This was of no real consolation to us and there is no doubt that this had a profound negative impact on our enjoyment of our holiday which otherwise was excellent.

The Captain and First Engineer held a Q & A session in the Centrum when the matter of the stench was raised by three passengers.  We were told that the smell was caused by the installation of a new sewage treatment plant at the recent refit.  Apparently, wind direction can cause fumes from the sewage storage tanks to enter the ship – this was the cause of the effect we experienced!!!!!!!!.  My impression was that this was being passed of as  normal occurance when a new sewerage plant is installed as it takes time for “the natural bacteria in the tanks to build up to a sufficient level to process and decompose sewage matter efficiently”.  I am afraid that this lame explanation did not reassure me that things were as they should be!

If this is a “normal ” phenominum then I am afraid that I will certainly need to revise any plans for future cruise holidays.  Interestingly, in our past 4 cruises we were never subjected to this sort of situation – so how it can be considered to be normal – seems to counter our previous experiences.

When we returned we did some googling to see if there was any other comments about this problem.  In fact it seems this has been an ongoing issues and a number of former passengers have commented about it on various forums.  See the following critic sites which can be easily found by googling the following search string “granduer of the seas reviews”

Cruise Critic

there are more sites which all tell a consistent story across a number of cruises by this ship.  So there seems to be little evidence that Royal Caribbean is dealing with this problem.  This is in my view a very unacceptable situation.

Onboard I filled in a complaint form and then on our return home I emailed to the “Crown and Anchor Society” to ask what address I can use to write to the Managing Director of Royal Caribbean about our experience.  My wife also filled in a lengthy survey and raised the issue of the stench – and we have had no response to any of these communcation RCI.  Four weeks have passed I have not even yet recieved an acknowledgement that my email has been received.  It would appear that Royal Caribbean’s policy when faced with complaints of this nature is to simply ignore them.

I have held of publishing this post in the hope that I would revieve a response to my email – but it seems that even the RCI loyalty club ( the Crown and Anchor Society)  does not consider that this problem warrants being acknowledged and responded to.

I am very dissappointed that we have had to endure this experience.  But even more of a concern is the lack of any response from Royal Caribbean about it.

Should people paying for a 5 star experience be subjected to the equivelant of living in the middle of a sewerage plant?  To be honest I have in the past visited a sewerage plant and the smell there was not nearly as intense as the one onboard the Grandeur of the Seas.  Perhaps the ship should be renamed “Grandstench of the Seas”

Broken Printer – working again ;-)

For some time I have had a slight ( perhaps more than slight!) issue with my HP Lasetjet 2605 printer.  Basically, the red colours seemed to be faded and more like yellow.  I replaced the cartridges but still the same issue.  The printer is now about 4.5 years old so I expected the worst.  I phoned the HP technical help line to be told that the printer is no longer supported.

I did a search on Google and found the following article which explains in some detail how to fix this very problem.

Click here to view

Result – followed the instructions and my printer is now as good as new.  The process took about 1.5 hours of patient instruction following……