Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Little Britain Carol Sketch

Interesting and yet depressing debate over what schools in Scotland's 32 local authorities can and cannot access. Reflected in these postings

Ewan McIntosh and here

Andrew Brown

Jim Henderson

I should not have said schools I should have said learners and teachers. Those who wish to access the system for learning don't have the controls.

This issue is as old as the hills or at least as old as folks became aware that this could all be controlled. IBM counted keystrokes at one time as a measure of productivity maybe this could be used as a benchmark for educational computing ;-) t00.

It is so very "Little Britain" - "computer says no" and sets a fantastic example to teachers and learners on the flexibility of access to IT and probably does nothing to educate anyone about the dangers that do lurk on the unmoderated and unfiltered internet that we can all access in normal life. There is an institutional cowardice around this on a national scale at moment. But at least it means everyone in "education" has a clear conscience.

The filtering also hampers communication and prevents teachers becoming involved in national developments - some local authorities cannot access the SQA computing blog or other user groups - another reason that Glow cannot come fast enough. When computers say yes more often in schools we will finally get the majority of learners and teachers engaging with this medium around the serious ;-) business of learning. I hope this will at last provide fairly uniform access to the net ( with the exception of certain bits which will ofcourse strictly observe the Sabbath ;-) )


Ewan McIntosh said...

I don't think you can say that there is institutional cowardice on a national scale. AB and I have made our views very well known on filtering - that it doesn't have a future in the medium and long term. Also, there is no national filtering mechanism in Glow. And probably never will be.

Unfortunately, though, Glow doesn't change the filtering of blogs and other social media sites - there'll just be more Websense logos within the various webparts of Glow. Painful...

Joe said...

Ewan I agree with you and AB on filtering - But it is the poor sod who can't access any of the goodies we might reasonably expect them to have daily access to or even see this discussion that we need to support.

There are some pretty good examples of the equivalent of local authorities in other bits of the world having much more user friendly systems at school level.

NZ there some good examples of self policing and very open access . In community college system in the States the learners, the students 16+ run and moderate the network as part of their programmes. It is an important part of their learning.

You know there are good examples in Scotland too - East Lothian looks good from outside - but if you are not a teacher or learner in East Lothian - things might not look so great.

With respect to AB kids or teachers with dongles sharing bandwith on alternative networks - is a way that kids who can afford and some who can't afford them will subvert the system - but it's not a very egalitarian future and I do bet that there is a period when unauthorized devices are blocked if we keep going along current path.

I think access in schools will quickly go the same way as it has in University and increasingly in Colleges. A wireless network with pupils bringing their own laptops or other wireless devices - means that local filtering will still be barrier.

Universities can personalise access down to individual users - this is way to go. You can't treat 12 year olds the same as 18 year olds - surely ? solution might be access to local college VLE and network user status for older learners ?

We need to get some changes here for sake of learners and teachers to get them to embrace the new.

Does the sictdg forum contain our filtering community - if most local authorities are using Websense can't we work towards one whitelist ( East Lothian's would be a start). Some positive encouragement to move to national system on this would save lots of pain - then at least when we saw a websense logo in Glow we'd know approximate level of access to expect.

What can SQA and LTS do to help move this on.

Ewan McIntosh said...

I think filtering is still going to be an issue that Local Authorities have to out for themselves - there will not be a national filtering system any time soon. However, national organisation of filtering would make sense. While LTS can broker some space for this, I don't think it's our place to tell Local Authorities what to do... which brings us back to the beginning again. Local Authorities have to do this for themselves.

Joe said...

I don't think its our place to tell - only do what we can to encourage . We know the issues - teachers don't know what they can't access - and this is damaging to our educaton system
and while experience for some has shades of Little Britain or "Wee Scotland" it does not encouarage innovation.

Why don't LT Scotland and SQA suggest a list of services - only suggest not tell - GLOW technical spec may already cover this ?? Shouldn't be resource thirsty or confrontational just helpful.

Filtering and or bandwidth throttling around some of the hungry applications on the horizon won't go away - I agree.

a.brown said...

I think that on a daily basis we do inform many of those in LAs of key services that should not be blocked, but in reality it's the wrong audience. In many LAs it's someone far removed from classroom teaching in some corporate corner that makes the decisions on filtering. For that reason, and the preposterous 'pre-emptive strike' that any filtering system has to take makes it untennable.

Blocking unauthorised devices is a bizarre one though. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of teachers (and senior managers) would be oblivious to what technology kids were using in their classroom. The USB dongle looks just like the ubiquitous USB flash disk that even the most un-tech savvy teacher now seems to own. I don't doubt for one second that SMTs across the land will move to block them just as they did mobile phones. Perhaps what we'd need is the SQA and LTS pointing out how these devices could be used effectively?

N Winton said...

Hi Joe,

I'm sorry I didn't respond to this post when it was originally posted. I wrote about this very issue a couple of years ago (http://tinyurl.com/saysno), but the problem has never improved...

I truly believe we have to trust the professionalism of the teachers who we trust with our students on a day-to-day basis. If we don't, we are denying everyone (pupils/teachers/the future) the skills that we purport to highlight.

Irrespective of the personal reasons I have had for not blogging over the summer, it is the stasis that affects education that has really meant I have been questioning the value of blogging.

I started blogging because I was enjoying the conversations, then I began to believe that we were in a position to make a difference, but now I have moments where I think I'm just a small, ignored cog in a machine called Scottish Education. I'm allowed to have my opinion, but the system is never going to change as a result of it... depressing...

I wish there were more people in the SQA who were engaged in the conversation... not because they have been told they should engage in it, but because they are passionate about discussing the changes we should be making in order to improve education for every pupil and student in Scotland.

Thanks for reminding me about the reason I became passionate in the first place!

Joe said...

Totally agree, I started and stopped blogging 2000 - 2002 as I was engaged with a pretty closed community of tech heads from UK and overseas - it is far too easy to get sucked in to the north american or other international educational communities and convince yourself you actually make a difference to education .. ( maybe how university and academic educationalists have deluded themselves and rest of education for last 100 years while it's been stuck in mud)

I started again when I arrived at SQA - there are no shortage of SQA staff who know about all these technologies and we use it in the sectors we can. Most visible example is computing where we have had bloggers and online communities over the years. But we have found it really hard to find even simple platforms that can be accessed in Scottish Local Authorities - means we can have communities that span College , Workbased but hardly ever all schools - makes it nonsensical to get SQA staff on to these platforms when we start by knowing the audience can't access key messages - we have to rely on letters to SQA coordinators to be cascaded to departments.. ..
hopefully not for much longer.
Glow groups are my great hope on this front.

Keep Blogging you are leading the charge - it is cringingly embarrassing that we haven't sorted this out - more cringing too are the numbers of folk in system who could help fix this but just lurk quietly in system or spend their time posting on the kind of educational philosophy that we all covered at some stage or measuring other things - rather than - tackling nonsense like this - we need a list of services that should be unblocked across senior school and available to all pupils and teachers. We have needed this since filtering arrived - now by me estimation that was 15 years ago. It should come from all agencies that need this - we're just one of these.

You can effect change - our conversation about this again will have irritated those who sit around watching this .

Blog on ;-)