ICT Excellence group calls for suite of services supported by national filtering and sharing policies
Children’s access to the internet at school should not be limited by local authority web-filtering policies, according to a report commissioned by the Scottish Government.
The report recommends a Scotland-wide policy for filtering instead: “This should be a liberal policy in the sense that the norm should be that all web sites and services are accessible unless the policy states that some sites, such as pornography, should be explicitly blocked. Teachers must have a role in the setting and review of the filtering policy.”
The report adds that pupils should also be allowed to bring their own laptops, tablets and smartphones to use on school networks. And it says that there should be a national policy on sharing of teaching materials which allows teachers to swap resources without the need for local authority approval.
The recommendations are contained in the interim report published today (23 November) of the ICT Excellence Group which was established by Education Secretary Michael Russell to consider the future of Glow, the schools intranet.
“Two fundamental notions have driven our deliberations on this environment which,” the group’s report says. “These are [that] teachers should be trusted to use their professional judgment in how ICT should be used [and] far as is possible, the system should be future-proof.
“The first of these notions leads to a system that does not force on users a fixed set of services and content that have been decided by some external ‘authority’, however well meaning they may be. Rather, individual teachers should be able to decide which digital tools and services will be of most benefit to their students’ learning.”
It says that a basic set of services will be made easily available through the new system – which may be called Glow Plus – so that teachers without detailed ICT knowledge can access ‘best of breed’ services. The report also calls for every school to have “adequate broadband capacity”, and suggests that this should include wifi access for mobile device use.
Speaking to Holyrood earlier this month, education consultant and former Aberdeenshire director of education Bruce Robertson suggested that parts of the school estate didn’t have adequate internet connectivity.
“This notion also implies that access to specific applications and services should not be limited by local authority policies on web filtering and that use of tools and services is not limited by poor school connectivity and/or lack of computers for student access,” the report says.
“The second notion leads to a requirement for ‘replaceable’ services. The pace of change of digital technologies is such that what is today’s ‘best of breed’ service will be supplanted by a better service tomorrow. It must therefore be simple and straightforward to replace one part of the system with another that is functionally equivalent, superior or cheaper, as these become available.
“This notion also leads to the requirement that the system must be both device agnostic and accessible from anywhere at anytime. Increasingly, access to the Internet is not through fixed computers but through mobile, ‘always on’ devices.
“This trend will almost certainly accelerate, and within the school life of many of today’s students it is likely that use of desktop and laptop computers will become the exception rather than the rule.”
Professor Muffy Calder, chair of the ICT Excellence Group, said: “We need Glow Plus to fully harness the power of technology for learning, keep pace with rapidly evolving developments and speak the language of young people.”
The group is developing a more detailed description of the new service and plans to publish its final recommendations on the structure and scope of Glow Plus next month.