As part of the organization’s latest effort to learn from colleagues abroad, a delegation of U.S. education technology leaders from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) visited Scotland and the Netherlands last week to learn more about the world’s first national intranet for education, international approaches to online safety, and more.
Last year, a CoSN delegation toured Scandinavia in search of answers for how students in that region of the world were able to score so high on a recent international test of math and science skills. (Read "U.S. educators seek lessons from Scandinavia.")
This year, the delegation hoped to learn more about international practices for integrating information and communication technology (ICT) into instruction, as well as how data-driven decision making influences initiatives and strategies in Scotland and the Netherlands.
The six-day visit, which began Nov. 8th, marked CoSN’s fourth international delegation. While abroad, the delegation held high-level meetings with both public and private-sector officials.
"Across the globe, technology is being leveraged to enhance learning and boost administrative efficiency in schools," said Keith Krueger, CoSN’s chief executive, in a statement. "U.S. educators and policy makers need to look at best practices from around the world if they hope to use technology to transform learning and enable the enterprise of education. CoSN is dedicated to uncovering and exploring innovative approaches wherever they are being employed to ensure that North American educators and policy makers can devise practices and enact policies that lead to the successful use of technology in schools."
Specifically, the delegation hoped to learn how strategic investments in ICT by Scotland and the Netherlands are preparing their students for higher achievement and success in a global economy; explore innovative uses of technology, including Web 2.0 collaborative tools, national learning platforms, and other cutting-edge applications; and discover common challenges in using ICT to transform learning.
In Scotland, the delegation met with senior staff at Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), the lead government-funded organization for the development of Scottish ICT initiatives, and heard about the Glow Network, the world’s first national intranet for education.
Funded and managed by LTS and delivered by Research Machines (RM), Glow is a safe online environment for students, teachers, and parents, as well as an area to create personalized work spaces and share curricular resources.
Glow also provides a variety of online tools to help students communicate and collaborate across the network.
Click below to learn about Glow on eSN.TV
"The most profound thing about the current version of Glow is that it represents the successful scaling–by an administrative entity, no less–of an environment that provides more or less all teachers with basic social media tools," said Graig Wacker, program officer for the MacArthur Foundation and a CoSN delegate.
Wacker’s comments are part of CoSN’s multimedia blog describing the delegation’s visit, which can be found here. Besides meaningful commentary, CoSN’s blog provides video interviews with delegates and foreign officials, as well as videos of schools visited, the Glow Network, and more.
Along with Glow, the delegation’s blog also highlights an internet voucher initiative that Becta (the British Educational Communications & Technology Authority) started several years ago to help low-income families access the internet. The vouchers also can be used to help buy personal home computers.
According to Krueger, Doug Brown, an international consultant to Becta, told the delegation that putting technology into the hands of poor families has had a huge economic impact. It has allowed entire families to use the technology for a range of social and economic purposes, including finding jobs, paying bills online, and bringing family members into an increasingly digital world. "And, of course, their kids are now able to compete on an equitable basis with their peers," said Krueger on CoSN’s blog.
During its visit to the Netherlands, the delegation met with officials from Kennisnet, a leading public ICT support organization, as well as with members of the European Schoolnet and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and a senior member of the Dutch Parliament.
The delegation also presented U.S. lessons at Onderwijsdagen (Netherland’s Education Day) on Nov. 9.
According to Irene Shapiro, chief operating officer for CoSN, the most significant point of difference between U.S. schools and Dutch schools is that Dutch schools do not block any of the social media tools that are often banned in the U.S.
"It is clear that the educators we have met here and in Scotland share common problems, but the approaches and the solutions in addressing these problems are unique," explained Shapiro on CoSN’s blog.
Krueger said major findings from the delegation will be analyzed and compiled into a report that he expects will be available in January.
Note to readers:
Don’t forget to visit the Education 3.0 resource center. In some forward-thinking schools, technology isn’t just layered on top of traditional processes. Instead, it is woven seamlessly through all aspects of education, from building security to lesson plans and student collaboration — interconnecting all facets of school life, and truly revolutionizing the education experience. Go to: Education 3.0