isitswitchedon

Development Officer Diary

Archive for the category “ICT Developments”

Looking ahead to 2013

As we reach the end of another calendar year, I’ve been taking a bit of time to reflect on the year past, but also looking ahead to next year.

2013 will see many changes for me. Just like the voting in Strictly, I announce these in no particular order:

Wireless technology rolled out in schools
BYOD support
Flipped learning
New version(s) of Glow
Impending fatherhood

Only one thing on that list fills me with terror, but I’m sure I will get used to Glow+ with “minimal training”.

Seriously though, 2013 sees the start of some fairly major changes in ICT provision, coupled with a shift in the scope and possibilities for learning and teaching. A more flexible provision of ICT should allow us greater agility, in order to respond to the changing requirements of pupils and staff.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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People walk past me in the street and assume that my athletic physique is honed from years of representing my country at International level in some form of sport. They seem somewhat surprised when I tell them that most of my athletic ability was restricted to Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and that my PE report from school said simply, “Stuart tries hard.”

What I can do though is identify ICT resources to support the next batch of athletes in the hope that they manage to get further than just joining me at the cafe in the local sport arena.

One early resource we had was Dartfish, the video analysis software and hardware. While this is seen as the market leader, it is quite an investment in terms of budget, so it never really spread to other schools in our area.

One thing we stumbled upon was Kinovea, an Open Source alternative which we now deploy as part of our standard image in Art, Drama and PE. While it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as Dartfish it does offer a lower cost alternative for performance analysis.

Kinovea Performance Analysis Software

Pupils can have their performance compared against professionals or against each other. Slow motion replays can be used to critically evaluate methods and techniques. It may even improve the odd golf swing or two! The software is updated fairly regularly and the development community are always open to suggestions for improvements.

Let’s change Glow to Glue

I’ve been really struggling to put down in words my feelings for the future of the Glow portal and ICT in general. Those of you (and I know there are some of you poor souls) who follow me on Twitter (@isITswitchedon) will have heard my witterings over the past few weeks, which could probably be summarised as:

  • If we reduce filtering we need increased bandwidth
  • I support the notion of pupil devices, but this also increases demands on bandwidth
  • More bandwidth means higher revenue costs to Authorities
  • We still need Glow V2

So where do we go with Glow V2? There has been a lot of talk already about several big companies and their Cloud based services being seen as a possible complete replacement for Glow. It is clear from the criticisms of Glow V1 that its lack of ability to respond quickly enough to change in ICT was a key failing, so I can understand why we are looking at the “big hitters” in ICT- it’s a safe bet that they will be able to respond and drive change.

One fear I have is that we could be going too far by selling our soul over to someone else entirely. Google, for instance, could kill off a service like iGoogle tomorrow:
http://www.businessinsider.com/googles-failed-attempts-to-win-social-2011-3?op=1
I have no issue with Glow V2 signing up to any service, such as Google, where we have a contract in place for a guaranteed term for certain services, but I keep coming back to thinking that we need a core portal that Scottish Government has some form of control over to integrate the other services to. It can be as free and open as you like and allow the APIs of other services to connect, which would allow change to happen.
What it should also allow is for Authorities and schools to subscribe to additional services as they see fit. Another benefit of this approach would be a gathering point for other associated agencies such as GTC, Education Scotland, SEEMiS, COSLA, etc. I’m not touting Moodle as a solution, but something along those lines, with a Scottish Government hosted environment that allows the integration of all these other Edu apps services through freely available plug-ins.

It really does come back to my title- let’s change Glow to Glue…

Glow Glue

As good as my Word…

One thing I love is change upgrade. I love it, I really do. I itch with excitement when a new version of a product comes out. I count down the days until a new piece of software is launched. I keep my computers up to date with the latest version of everything that is on them. Yes, I am that nerdy…

However, sometimes I forget that not everyone is as keen to move on. Let’s take MS Office as an example- it’s a core product to most things done in school, but it has a product refresh every 3 or 4 years. The move from Office 97 to 2000 was fine, 2000 to 2003 also fine, but 2000 to 2007 was a dramatic change for users. Gone was the long menu driven layout in favour of a “ribbon” layout divided into related tasks. It took me a good month or so to adjust, but I now love this layout. Others I’ve spoken to are not as keen; some on a usability basis, some on a resources implication for prepared pupil support notes.

Office 2007 Ribbon

One of the best resources I’ve found are the Interactive Office 2003 to 2007 guides:

Powerpoint

Word

Excel

They are fully interactive- do what you would do in 2003 and it will show you how to do it in 2007. Everyone I’ve shown them to has loved them!

So what next? Well Office 2010 is out and some of our schools will be moving to this in the next few months. Why? Well, the video embedding, the blogging, the collaboration tools, the image editing, I could go on! I love change…

The perfect host…

One thing I have noticed with people taking their initial forays into Glow is thGlow Navigation Bareir struggle to navigate around the site and the concept of School, Local Authority and National level groups. This isn’t really helped by the navigation bar down the left side of Glow, which can only take you to the top level of each area:

Over the past year we’ve tried to counter this issue by putting in links, graphical interfaces and trying to find some form of uniformity of branding across our Falkirk Glow sites. This helped make things slightly easier to navigate, however one issue we still faced was how we could quickly update this branding across all Falkirk Glow groups.

Some components in Glow are less well known than others, one of which is Glow Web Hosting. The main reason it is overlooked (I think) is its lack of support for some of the latest web design tools. Basically, the component allows FTP transfer of files to a webspace (which can be made public or private) in order to create a website. I’ve been using it so far as a public facing RSS aggregator for digital signage, which I really must blog about some time…

So, how does this fit in with navigation in Glow? Well… one thought I had was to use the webhosting space to host the common branding buttons. These look like this:

The buttons are basically HTML code that hyperlink to the relevant page. As they are hosted on public webspace, all you have to do is create a Page Viewer webpart to the URL of the webspace then import it to all of your Glow Groups. This allows us to edit the buttons on the webspace and the changes carry through to all of the Glow Groups. We’ve already had to make a few changes from the original concept, but these changes can be made quickly and easily, as opposed to having to edit and update every single Glow Group!

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