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South West Grid for Learning Trust Merlin Learning Platform

more magic, less dust

The South West Grid for Learning is a charitable trust dedicated to the advancement of education through information and communication technologies


a little and a lot It’s almost a conundrum talking about Merlin – where to start, and where to finish? There are so many wonderful possibilities for learning and teaching and sharing and growing… But the beauty of Merlin is that you can dip in lightly, or dig in deep. It’s as little, or as big, as you want it to be. Merlin is a learning platform that makes the most of technology, without being techie. It’s an interactive online resource that links students, teachers, parents, carers, governors, local authorities – and the whole wide world if you like. It can stand alone or combine with any virtual learning environment and management information system. (Say hello to interoperability.) We’ve evolved it to make it work the way you want it to work. From admin to creativity, Merlin exists to enhance education.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

For children, it’s like a digital rucksack that they can take from school to home, or to another school. For grown-ups, it’s like a progress meeting, or an excursion, whenever the time feels right. Think of Merlin as a common space where you can create lively forums and workshops, show and tell, share projects and teaching materials (without using a ton of paper), exchange news and views, monitor students’ progress, work with people in other schools and countries, keep on top of targets and timetables… Safely. Anytime. Anywhere.

“Merlin has an added bonus. It also has its own integrated tools for communication and collaborative work. These make up what most schools would already expect from a VLE, so subscribing schools, in a climate of cost-cutting, can use Merlin as their VLE and not take out further subscriptions.” –Futurelab, February 2010

But don’t forget: you can use Merlin a little, or a lot. You can pick and mix. Whatever you take from it, you’ll find there’s always more to get out of it. Merlin is constantly fresh, infinite in potential and it’s free!

03


a little and a lot It’s almost a conundrum talking about Merlin – where to start, and where to finish? There are so many wonderful possibilities for learning and teaching and sharing and growing… But the beauty of Merlin is that you can dip in lightly, or dig in deep. It’s as little, or as big, as you want it to be. Merlin is a learning platform that makes the most of technology, without being techie. It’s an interactive online resource that links students, teachers, parents, carers, governors, local authorities – and the whole wide world if you like. It can stand alone or combine with any virtual learning environment and management information system. (Say hello to interoperability.) We’ve evolved it to make it work the way you want it to work. From admin to creativity, Merlin exists to enhance education.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

For children, it’s like a digital rucksack that they can take from school to home, or to another school. For grown-ups, it’s like a progress meeting, or an excursion, whenever the time feels right. Think of Merlin as a common space where you can create lively forums and workshops, show and tell, share projects and teaching materials (without using a ton of paper), exchange news and views, monitor students’ progress, work with people in other schools and countries, keep on top of targets and timetables… Safely. Anytime. Anywhere.

“Merlin has an added bonus. It also has its own integrated tools for communication and collaborative work. These make up what most schools would already expect from a VLE, so subscribing schools, in a climate of cost-cutting, can use Merlin as their VLE and not take out further subscriptions.” –Futurelab, February 2010

But don’t forget: you can use Merlin a little, or a lot. You can pick and mix. Whatever you take from it, you’ll find there’s always more to get out of it. Merlin is constantly fresh, infinite in potential and it’s free!

03


parent on board The Government expects schools to offer parents online access with real-time reporting on progress, behaviour, special needs, attendance and attainment. The deadline? 2012. Regulations or no, it simply makes sense to get parents on board and use technology to facilitate the process. And what do parents want most? Access to information. Photos from educational visits and a glimpse of the school day. Examples of a student’s best work and an understanding of where the struggles are. Even when words are few or time is short, such insight can get the parent-child conversation going, and the support.

You can use Merlin to make this happen. From punctuality to performance, parents can access summary and detailed information about their child’s life at school – without having to wait for a parent-teacher meeting. They can view projects from class-time, and get a better idea of how to help on the homework front. With student data managed in transferable accounts, there’s an efficient, flexible and responsive system to cater for single parents, irregular hours, periods of transition and changes of address. (Schools avoid the nightmares of manual input too.) You can use surveys to canvas opinion on school changes. Once you’ve engaged parents, you’ve got the child on board too.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

“It looks like children are more open and honest on the discussion boards than when they are asked something in class and have to answer quickly in front of everybody… Children enjoy having their own online space that enables them to share work with family at home.” –parent, St Paul’s Primary School, Wiltshire

approval of SEAL If children have trouble understanding or managing their feelings, expressing themselves, working with others, or dealing with setbacks, their education is affected. Negatively. All schools value the social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL), especially when behaviour and attendance are problematic. How to help develop skills like empathy, collaboration, perseverance and self-expression? Technology is no substitute for drama groups or buddy schemes, but children often feel freer to connect with others online, within their school or across the region. And such first steps can lead to big journeys of discovery.

Merlin offers a safe environment for online play, chatting, blogging, messaging and teamwork. Merlin ‘Our Places’ are collaboration spaces where groups of users get together: you can share information and opinion in discussion forums; you can set up a chat-room; you can publish blogs and invite comment (with moderation and filtering too); you can make a wiki, where individual contributions create a body of knowledge; you can download dedicated SEAL teaching materials, and you can come together on interactive projects or learning games. All this group effort is virtually… actually… very little effort.

“A few times our kids have loaded a piece of work on to discussion boards and asked others to have a look at it and peer assess and feed back to them how they can improve it. Children are social beings and learning is a social activity so to be able to harness it in this way is really effective for them.” –head teacher, Court de Wyck Church of England Primary School, North Somerset

05


close distance How to reduce bigotry and divisiveness? How to lay foundations for safe, vibrant neighbourhoods? How to help children – and adults – bridge gaps in geography or lifestyle? We don’t have the answers at Merlin, but we do have a few good resources to build community cohesion and close the distance. If young people feel wary of engaging with other groups, one of the best ways to dispel their fear and ignorance is to find common ground. Online interaction can be a great way of building trust and getting to know each other gradually – it offers a neutral environment and it’s less confronting than meeting face-to-face. Projects that are about shared learning and achievement can take the pressure off ‘cohesion’ and unite students around a common goal or interest.

With Merlin, your kids can meet and get to know each other in secure chat-rooms. They can work together with others, no matter where they are in the region or abroad. Thanks to Merlin, a Plymouth primary school got together with schools in Jiaxing, China. (Standard email and commercial blogging software had failed to deliver.) Students and teachers used blogs, wikis, discussion boards, picture libraries and news features to bring their project work to life and share cultural differences and similarities. Starting with children, and drawing in adults, the outcomes are happy: less tension and less anti-social behaviour within your school. And across the wider community. Maybe, even, across the world.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

key to the keyboard “Dear all at Nanhu Experimental School, We are very excited this new website is now working. We look forward to communicating with you and your students using it. We have added a number of photos for you to look at. We hope you enjoy them and are able to add photos of your own.” –Stuart Road Primary School, Plymouth

We know, just as you know, that reading and writing skills are important to a child’s overall attainment. We also know that boys tend to read less, and make less progress, than girls. There’s no substitute for good teaching, but countless studies show that ICT can help boys read and write more effectively. Enter Merlin, the key to the keyboard of life! Let students get their hands on the latest interactive resources: develop their writing skills as they create a wiki, improve their subject knowledge in an interest space, broaden their vocabulary through an online debate, have fun playing online learning games, publish a blog or share stories through text-based chat. Create

discussion boards to encourage expressive confidence. Scan hand-written work and upload it to shared scrapbooks and project spaces. Use media tools, charts and graphs to show students their progress. Set up an e-buddy scheme with another school – there’s nothing like an external audience for sharpening awareness of spelling and grammar. There might not be too much pen or pencil action, but it’s all writing. And reading. (Whatever happened to quills?)

“The use of information and communications technology in teaching yielded dramatic improvements… Boys who shunned traditional writing tasks and who rejected inappropriate ‘babyish’ books given to them by teachers, wrote lengthy and imaginative emails to fictional characters.” –Rebecca Smithers, education editor, the Guardian

a+ 07


parent on board The Government expects schools to offer parents online access with real-time reporting on progress, behaviour, special needs, attendance and attainment. The deadline? 2012. Regulations or no, it simply makes sense to get parents on board and use technology to facilitate the process. And what do parents want most? Access to information. Photos from educational visits and a glimpse of the school day. Examples of a student’s best work and an understanding of where the struggles are. Even when words are few or time is short, such insight can get the parent-child conversation going, and the support.

You can use Merlin to make this happen. From punctuality to performance, parents can access summary and detailed information about their child’s life at school – without having to wait for a parent-teacher meeting. They can view projects from class-time, and get a better idea of how to help on the homework front. With student data managed in transferable accounts, there’s an efficient, flexible and responsive system to cater for single parents, irregular hours, periods of transition and changes of address. (Schools avoid the nightmares of manual input too.) You can use surveys to canvas opinion on school changes. Once you’ve engaged parents, you’ve got the child on board too.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

“It looks like children are more open and honest on the discussion boards than when they are asked something in class and have to answer quickly in front of everybody… Children enjoy having their own online space that enables them to share work with family at home.” –parent, St Paul’s Primary School, Wiltshire

approval of SEAL If children have trouble understanding or managing their feelings, expressing themselves, working with others, or dealing with setbacks, their education is affected. Negatively. All schools value the social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL), especially when behaviour and attendance are problematic. How to help develop skills like empathy, collaboration, perseverance and self-expression? Technology is no substitute for drama groups or buddy schemes, but children often feel freer to connect with others online, within their school or across the region. And such first steps can lead to big journeys of discovery.

Merlin offers a safe environment for online play, chatting, blogging, messaging and teamwork. Merlin ‘Our Places’ are collaboration spaces where groups of users get together: you can share information and opinion in discussion forums; you can set up a chat-room; you can publish blogs and invite comment (with moderation and filtering too); you can make a wiki, where individual contributions create a body of knowledge; you can download dedicated SEAL teaching materials, and you can come together on interactive projects or learning games. All this group effort is virtually… actually… very little effort.

“A few times our kids have loaded a piece of work on to discussion boards and asked others to have a look at it and peer assess and feed back to them how they can improve it. Children are social beings and learning is a social activity so to be able to harness it in this way is really effective for them.” –head teacher, Court de Wyck Church of England Primary School, North Somerset

05


close distance How to reduce bigotry and divisiveness? How to lay foundations for safe, vibrant neighbourhoods? How to help children – and adults – bridge gaps in geography or lifestyle? We don’t have the answers at Merlin, but we do have a few good resources to build community cohesion and close the distance. If young people feel wary of engaging with other groups, one of the best ways to dispel their fear and ignorance is to find common ground. Online interaction can be a great way of building trust and getting to know each other gradually – it offers a neutral environment and it’s less confronting than meeting face-to-face. Projects that are about shared learning and achievement can take the pressure off ‘cohesion’ and unite students around a common goal or interest.

With Merlin, your kids can meet and get to know each other in secure chat-rooms. They can work together with others, no matter where they are in the region or abroad. Thanks to Merlin, a Plymouth primary school got together with schools in Jiaxing, China. (Standard email and commercial blogging software had failed to deliver.) Students and teachers used blogs, wikis, discussion boards, picture libraries and news features to bring their project work to life and share cultural differences and similarities. Starting with children, and drawing in adults, the outcomes are happy: less tension and less anti-social behaviour within your school. And across the wider community. Maybe, even, across the world.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

key to the keyboard “Dear all at Nanhu Experimental School, We are very excited this new website is now working. We look forward to communicating with you and your students using it. We have added a number of photos for you to look at. We hope you enjoy them and are able to add photos of your own.” –Stuart Road Primary School, Plymouth

We know, just as you know, that reading and writing skills are important to a child’s overall attainment. We also know that boys tend to read less, and make less progress, than girls. There’s no substitute for good teaching, but countless studies show that ICT can help boys read and write more effectively. Enter Merlin, the key to the keyboard of life! Let students get their hands on the latest interactive resources: develop their writing skills as they create a wiki, improve their subject knowledge in an interest space, broaden their vocabulary through an online debate, have fun playing online learning games, publish a blog or share stories through text-based chat. Create

discussion boards to encourage expressive confidence. Scan hand-written work and upload it to shared scrapbooks and project spaces. Use media tools, charts and graphs to show students their progress. Set up an e-buddy scheme with another school – there’s nothing like an external audience for sharpening awareness of spelling and grammar. There might not be too much pen or pencil action, but it’s all writing. And reading. (Whatever happened to quills?)

“The use of information and communications technology in teaching yielded dramatic improvements… Boys who shunned traditional writing tasks and who rejected inappropriate ‘babyish’ books given to them by teachers, wrote lengthy and imaginative emails to fictional characters.” –Rebecca Smithers, education editor, the Guardian

a+ 07


cornering cuts Enough of cutting corners, what about cutting down the time it takes to keep a school running? Who wants a heavier workload or more paperwork? Merlin can help you save precious time and resources, so that you can focus on teaching and learning. Head teachers enjoy working more efficiently with governor boards and school leadership teams. You can get a discussion going, conduct surveys, organise votes, distribute data, integrate calendars, publish staff rotas and share targeted news – without being swamped by meetings and piles of paper. And there’s nothing like a head teacher’s blog for getting good news to the world in one fell swoop. Teachers spend lots of holiday or home time planning and preparing for school. With Merlin, you can exchange resources with other schools and save your work online. You can

manage your diary, receive students’ work submissions and get targeted news. Anywhere you like. Any time you like. You might be a supply teacher needing access to current learning plans. You might be a teacher here, a governor there, and a parent at another school. With one simple username and password, Merlin speeds you to the info you need for each role. (This is Shibboleth in action.) The big digital idea? You upload once across multiple dynamic systems that interact. After that, updates are quick and easy. You avoid duplication, paperwork, errors. Merlin combines seamlessly with management information systems (MIS), virtual learning environments (VLEs) and almost any other acronym you throw at it. (Meet SIF, your Systems Interoperability Framework.) From admin to assessment, from timetables to targets, you can help yourself to whatever helps.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

exploration without risk “Once everything is uploaded to Merlin you only have to update when needed – it saves resources.” –staff member, Sandford Special School, Gloucester

The new landscape of learning online extends far beyond the linear transfer of data or goods. Interactive instruction, flexible teaching, personalised learning… Teachers, managers, students and parents are instantly connected, in complex ways, no matter where they are. The possibilities for creativity and the sharing of knowledge are infinite. But with exploration there are risks. Exposure to undesirable forces. System failure. Uncontrolled expansion. Costly investment today, for an unpredictable tomorrow.

The South West Grid for Learning Trust exists to minimise these risks for you. With Merlin, you get essential safety and essential security as standard. We block Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) listed content and traffic with illegal images. Children are safeguarded. Network managers, governors and school leaders minimise the risks of deliberate or accidental exposure, disrepute and criminal investigation.

Every week, we block 3,500 viruses, and we stop nearly 20,000 spam emails from overloading your school’s inbox.

One of our unique services is that we work with the IWF and the police to manage what happens if there are attempts to access illicit content. And, from 2011, in partnership with the IWF and Childnet, we’re running the Safer Internet Centre for all of the UK.

09


cornering cuts Enough of cutting corners, what about cutting down the time it takes to keep a school running? Who wants a heavier workload or more paperwork? Merlin can help you save precious time and resources, so that you can focus on teaching and learning. Head teachers enjoy working more efficiently with governor boards and school leadership teams. You can get a discussion going, conduct surveys, organise votes, distribute data, integrate calendars, publish staff rotas and share targeted news – without being swamped by meetings and piles of paper. And there’s nothing like a head teacher’s blog for getting good news to the world in one fell swoop. Teachers spend lots of holiday or home time planning and preparing for school. With Merlin, you can exchange resources with other schools and save your work online. You can

manage your diary, receive students’ work submissions and get targeted news. Anywhere you like. Any time you like. You might be a supply teacher needing access to current learning plans. You might be a teacher here, a governor there, and a parent at another school. With one simple username and password, Merlin speeds you to the info you need for each role. (This is Shibboleth in action.) The big digital idea? You upload once across multiple dynamic systems that interact. After that, updates are quick and easy. You avoid duplication, paperwork, errors. Merlin combines seamlessly with management information systems (MIS), virtual learning environments (VLEs) and almost any other acronym you throw at it. (Meet SIF, your Systems Interoperability Framework.) From admin to assessment, from timetables to targets, you can help yourself to whatever helps.

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

exploration without risk “Once everything is uploaded to Merlin you only have to update when needed – it saves resources.” –staff member, Sandford Special School, Gloucester

The new landscape of learning online extends far beyond the linear transfer of data or goods. Interactive instruction, flexible teaching, personalised learning… Teachers, managers, students and parents are instantly connected, in complex ways, no matter where they are. The possibilities for creativity and the sharing of knowledge are infinite. But with exploration there are risks. Exposure to undesirable forces. System failure. Uncontrolled expansion. Costly investment today, for an unpredictable tomorrow.

The South West Grid for Learning Trust exists to minimise these risks for you. With Merlin, you get essential safety and essential security as standard. We block Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) listed content and traffic with illegal images. Children are safeguarded. Network managers, governors and school leaders minimise the risks of deliberate or accidental exposure, disrepute and criminal investigation.

Every week, we block 3,500 viruses, and we stop nearly 20,000 spam emails from overloading your school’s inbox.

One of our unique services is that we work with the IWF and the police to manage what happens if there are attempts to access illicit content. And, from 2011, in partnership with the IWF and Childnet, we’re running the Safer Internet Centre for all of the UK.

09


Merlin is brought to you by the South West Grid for Learning. Since 2000, we’ve provided network infrastructure for education in the South West. Today, serving 2,500 schools across 15 Local Authorities, we've established our reputation as a leading Regional Broadband Consortium. Our Schools Internet Services offer you richly economical connectivity with e-safety and e-security.

We’re a charity, so we’re not here to sell you things you don’t want or need. We’ve streamlined our services, knowing that the needs of education are different from the needs of corporations or households. Then we’ve added the optional extras that matter for education. You can choose what you want, or turn off what you don’t want. The South West Grid for Learning is dedicated to the advancement of education through information and communication technologies. All very clever, but we do our best to make it simple.

clever but simple

“A key priority is communication, and keeping it simple so that head teachers, governors, children and teachers don’t need to see all the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes.” –Hilary Guckian, chief executive, the South West Grid for Learning

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

11


Merlin is brought to you by the South West Grid for Learning. Since 2000, we’ve provided network infrastructure for education in the South West. Today, serving 2,500 schools across 15 Local Authorities, we've established our reputation as a leading Regional Broadband Consortium. Our Schools Internet Services offer you richly economical connectivity with e-safety and e-security.

We’re a charity, so we’re not here to sell you things you don’t want or need. We’ve streamlined our services, knowing that the needs of education are different from the needs of corporations or households. Then we’ve added the optional extras that matter for education. You can choose what you want, or turn off what you don’t want. The South West Grid for Learning is dedicated to the advancement of education through information and communication technologies. All very clever, but we do our best to make it simple.

clever but simple

“A key priority is communication, and keeping it simple so that head teachers, governors, children and teachers don’t need to see all the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes.” –Hilary Guckian, chief executive, the South West Grid for Learning

www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

11


The Merlin team has been hand-picked from schools, and organisations who know what schools need. Since its ambitious beginnings, Merlin has undergone exciting transformations. We’d like you to get as excited about it as we are.

To find out more about the magic, call us on 0845 601 3203 email us at merlin@swgfl.org.uk have a whirl with the new prototype at www.swgfl.org.uk/merlintestdrive or get some inspirational empowerment at www.swgfl.org.uk/merlin

Š 2010 South West Grid for Learning


SWGfL Merlin Brochure