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 https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=586)
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 https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=512)
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 https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=586)
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 https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=581)
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 https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=714
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.