Guest post from Melvyn Ingleson - MJI Business Solutions.

I recently organised a very involved conference call between Scottish Government and a member of the Microsoft Corporation software engineering group. A fascinating call for a non techie like me. As with much of my work at the moment, the call was to get a better understanding from everyone involved about how to continuously improve the experience of Glow users, the Scottish schools technology platform. We need to drive maximum collaboration whilst being mindful of appropriate child protection policies, a delicate balancing act.

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However it made me think about how you deliver a One Scotland, One Education approach to learning. In other words how do you use the power of collaboration across multiple audiences and geographies to deliver the finest education experience for everyone. Let me explain…

You quickly find yourself looking at the old ways of managing technology across public services, with a really heavy emphasis on security, on limiting identification of pupils and limiting access from one group to another. And yet whether we like it or not older children and adults use Facebook , WhatsApp , Skype and other social media and collaboration tools and frankly set their own identities, sometimes with parental involvement, often without. Some may feel that such ubiquitous identity and access when allowed is highly dangerous. In truth the scale of abuse of identity and access to individuals of any age is minimal when compared to the sheer global usage of such social engagement tools. Checks and balances are built in by the technology providers, and you can choose to be very private, limiting access to photos for example to a few close friends. In truth few limit access to the maximum permitted.

So lets turn the issue round. Lets examine the case for a One Scotland access and identity policy, where individuals must provide at minimum, a substantial amount of recognition data. Why? So that if anyone abuses the access rights at any level the individual can quickly be traced either as an online persona or physical individual. Exemplary action is then taken against any individual who steps outside the boundaries of common sense or legal framework. Yes, but more importantly, because it is then easy to find your collaborator wherever or whoever they be.

On that basis we create an absolute de minimis number of security groups within what is termed, technically, a national tenancy. Something that is now made possible by huge advances in Cloud computing.

  • We encourage teachers in any school to communicate with teachers in any other school in Scotland.
  • We encourage pupils to collaborate with pupils in other schools where there is a common project interest.
  • We ignore local authority boundaries for the purpose of collaboration
  • We invite any parent or guardian to engage with the school online, to engage directly with teachers, and to create parent interest groups at any level, local, regional or national
  • We invite business to engage directly with individual schools and with pupils groups to inform educational choices as we build a twenty first century workforce
  • We encourage pupils, teachers, parents to reach out to schools and pupils in other countries where there is common interest
  • We encourage any device form in schools including mobile as a “learning platform”
  • A platform that is extended to all Higher and further Education

In reality that world is already there in the business world which some enquiring minds may join! Yes there are rules and protocols but in truth we live in an Open Age. We reach out through email, but that is really now old school. Increasingly Yammer groups are the preferred route for businesses to address issues, or seize opportunities. Sometimes partners or supply chains are invited in, sometimes not. We use Skype or Lync to hold video conference calls, share documents, etc, on a global scale.

The one remaining barrier to truly global collaboration has been language, and we in the UK, have been very fortunate that English is very widely taught and spoken. Now that barrier is being removed. Microsoft ‘s World Partner Conference last month enabled the new CEO to demonstrate Skype Translate, a brave live demo in front of 14000 partners. And yes it will be formally launched within a few months. Spontaneous audio translation in real time to enable communication in two languages. Truly awesome!

So let s get a real debate going across Scotland, from every interested party. For too long there has been an unhealthy focus on current structures, protocols and governance. Scottish Government and Microsoft have been investing heavily to make the Glow 365 Platform do the business for Scottish teaching and learning. However, in an era of Cloud First, Mobile First, I would argue that we need to have the courage to take a brave decision. Let s create a truly collaborative environment, a One Scotland Education & Learning Experience. One that drives collaboration. One that demonstrates that Scotland is a true innovator when it comes to enabling the use of technology by highly committed educators and enquiring minds.

I would love to hear your views……..