Scotland’s ICT investment takes shape in Glow, which is often termed “the world’s first national intranet for education.” The safe, free online environment gives students, teachers, and parents space to create and share resources.

Glow Groups allow classes to complete class work and homework online, work with other classes in different schools, and even work with pupils across the world on collaborative online projects. All school systems in Scotland voluntarily have signed on to participate in Glow, which is funded and managed by the Scottish government and delivered by RM, a private company.

“The ‘a-ha’ moment for me was in Scotland and the excellent implementation of Glow in two different settings with both kindergarten students and with middle school-age students,” said Lois Adams-Rodgers, deputy executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Aided by government funding, the Netherlands has created a nonprofit partnership, called Kennisnet, that offers all educational facilities independent advice and services for safe and effective technology use.

Three examples stood out when the delegation visited the Netherlands, and all three involved collaboratively produced, teacher-created digital repositories.

The DigilessesnVO.nl project uses a cooperative group of schools that pay for the chance to contribute to and share in a learning object repository. Teachers produce classroom lessons and make those lessons available to other teachers within the group, and each school must produce at least 10 lessons or learning objects annually. Schools pay 2,300 Euros per school, per year (roughly $3,000 U.S. dollars) to participate, and at the time of the report’s publication, 30 schools had signed on to participate. Teachers send their lessons to editors, who tweak the assignments and enter them into the repository.

The delegation noted that the U.S. has similar initiatives, such as OER Commons and Curriki—but the DigilessenVO.nl is unique in its mix of school collaboration, a cooperative business model, and a minimal threshold for participation.

Digischool, which started 10 years ago, is an online teacher network with more than 200,000 teachers throughout the Netherlands. The network is organized according to subject area and grade level. “Community organizers” spur the activity in this network, in addition to maintaining their full-time teaching position, and they receive a small stipend for their efforts.

The Learning Resource Exchange (LRE), launched by European Schoolnet, lets schools find educational content from different countries and providers. LRE currently offers more than 130,000 learning resources and assets.

This year, Kennisnet is rolling out Wikiwijs, an open, internet-based platform where teachers can find, use, and develop open learning materials. The partnership also is developing initiatives around digital identity and social networking.

“Throughout our discussions with leaders at Kennisnet, they reminded us that we cannot ignore Web 2.0 trends and student usage of Web 2.0 tools, but must embrace and shape them for learning,” the delegation reported. “Contrast this with the typical situation in the U.S., where we block and ban access to social networking sites rather than promote and adapt [them] for learning.”

“We saw amazing uses of technology in classrooms and very traditional uses of technology. Traditional and technology seems like an oxymoron,” said Andrea Prejean, senior policy analyst for the National Education Association. “There was individualized instruction facilitated by technology, the integration of students’ interests into their learning, and a teacher [who] was so excited by her students that she was nearly bouncing with excitement.”

The CoSN delegation hopes to continue its collaboration with Scotland and the Netherlands and explore how the countries’ policies might be integrated or replicated in the United States. It also will publicize its findings to a broad range of constituencies.

The Pearson Foundation, SMART Technologies, netTrekker, and RM Education sponsored the delegation’s trip.

The delegation said that focusing on technology as a necessity “could help everyone recognize that technology is no longer an ‘add-on’ to the curriculum or an optional luxury, but essential to educating tomorrow’s leaders.”

Links:

Report from Scotland and the Netherlands: Real Investment, Real Innovation

Glow

Kennisnet

Consortium for School Networking