I have spent the last 23 months working in a digital environment with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland immersed in the world of digital (for learning). My job was to promote Glow, Scotland’s digital environment for learning and latterly, the development of a Digital Learning Community for Scotland as part of a broader digital learning and teaching agenda.
Glow has had a bumpy journey – the details of which have been told many times. I will simply point you in the direction of a post from Fearghal Kelly to fill in the gaps.
My Glow story began with a crash course in reputation management, a steep learning curve in all things digital and on a massive scale and a scary stakeholder meeting. Not an auspicious start! As I reflect on this piece of work, three things come to mind about shifting perceptions, is it about the product, the timing or the comms – or a combination of all three?
The communications job started with a focus on improving the coherence and consistency of the message, getting to grips with stakeholder needs, defining and creating channels and kick starting the process of re-building a rather saggy reputation. This task was aided by a brilliant programme team who, over the course of 12 months, worked tirelessly to re-provision and upgrade the service.
What’s interesting is how seamlessly the face-to-face elements of engagement interlocked with the development of digital platforms for information sharing, promotion and interaction, with an online presence (Glow Connect, Twitter and a Facebook page), at the heart of our endeavours to reach out and engage the user community. An active team of local authority Glow Key Contacts helped to bridge national / local communications and provided valuable insights and support to the communications function. Whilst the comms created a platform for presenting Glow and sharpening up the message, good solid stakeholder engagement has, in the main, precipitated a slow shift in the perception of Glow. Positive feedback from those who are using the service has helped to give Glow more credibility and reinstate its relevance as a tool to support learning. There’s still a long way to go to fulfill the potential of Glow, but it was clear at the last Scottish Learning Festival in September, that things have moved on apace.
Digital at the heart of learning
The next area of focus was the positioning of Glow and the further development of digital learning as part of a bigger picture within a competitive and fast moving marketplace. I hope Glow and other digital tools for learning, take their rightful place at the heart of the curriculum across all subject areas. Only then will our learners be truly equipped to use and apply the benefits of digital for learning, work and every day life. Glow was the first ever national intranet, bringing together classrooms and connecting schools across the country. When it was conceived this was a new concept, today international collaboration is commonplace. The re-provisioned Glow service offers a strong, continuously evolving, suite of digital resources and services which sit neatly as either a single solution or an enhancement to digital learning.
My experience of promoting digital learning has highlighted a huge variance in leadership, attitude, practice and infrastructure across Scotland – a veritable ‘Quality Street’ of approaches across the country. No wonder, in a way, that a national tool has been challenging to promote and the articulation of what is ‘digital learning’, remains somewhat foggy. And I haven’t even mentioned training, CPD, competence and confidence in the use of digital tools for learning.
Digital Learning – an open invitation
Recently, a Digital Learning Community for Scotland was launched alongside a public consultation on the development of a digital learning strategy for Scotland. There is a clear intention to involve and engage the education community, parents and others in shaping and influencing the use of digital technology for learning and to clarify what this means in terms of culture, practice and infrastructure. And we’re not alone. In Ireland, a Digital Strategy for Schools was launched in October. Back on home turf, the interest in school use of Twitter is rising steadily (upwards of 800 accounts at time of writing) as reported by William Jenkins @EdTech_Stories The fantastic application of Blogs for learning can be seen via the Glow Blogging Bootcamp via @johnhohnston
The message is, digital is here to stay, it’s not going away, it’s about finding entry points that are relevant and accessible to all.
Growing up digital
When I started this contract with Scottish Government, I would not have described myself as a digital communicator. I still don’t. My job continues to be about effective communication – digital, social, face to face, or whatever. I am a passionate advocate of the strategic importance of effective communications and stakeholder engagement, especially in dealing with challenging and sticky issues. It’s all about selecting the right tools for the job – and in this, I feel stretched pretty much daily because digital is evergreen, it’s constantly and continuously improving. That’s just the way it is. Our young people know this, they’re growing up digital, and we, as the first #BetaParents (read also educators, employers) need to embrace the digital story and write (blog, tweet, vlog) our own chapter. Put simply, we need to embrace digital – and here, I’m talking to those, who like me, are not the early adopters – we need to get to know what’s on offer and how to make the most of its benefits.
For me, immersion in digital does not mean exclusion from personal contact, it’s about blending – and doing this well should surely start in school through modelling, collaborating and sharing both on and offline. For me, digital learning offers an inclusive and equitable approach to learning for all. My daughter is dyslexic and I feel we’re barely scraping the surface of what’s possible for her and others – as a parent, I want this now!
The potential for using digital in learning is limitless. Good teachers, like good communicators, will be blending and experimenting to give learners the best start in life. Digital learning is here to stay and dare I say it, Glow is shining once again!