Saturday, February 21, 2015

#Jorum , UK Skills Portal , Repositories for Learning materials, #JISC



I did some thinking the other week as I made my way down from Inverness and then back up to Glasgow for the Manchester meeting of the UK Further Education Skills Window Project which I am currently chairing.

Some of the challenges we are hoping to solve have been around as long as I have worked in learning and development 

  • Across the UK lots of teachers and  lecturers are teaching the same things.
  • Learners want quality and effective learning experiences
  • Learners want to move through learning materials at their own pace and following their own path,  you need a lot of good material to accommodate this .
At an institutional level a  virtual learning environment helps staff structure on line courses and provides a navigation and communication system for learners but it is usually institutionally based and has the delivery of learning within a course structure its aim rather than the storage and discovery of relevant learning materials.
It is also not designed to share materials with peers within other institutions.

An institutionally based VLE cannot  therefore easily share learning materials with staff and learners beyond the institution or accept content created by staff or students out with the institution . A VLE is principally about giving learners a prescribed  and guided route through learning rather than being about the collection , discovery and presentation of a myriad of routes to understanding.

For some the answer is easy . The solution is the cloud . The argument goes that teachers and learners can just upload their materials to Youtube , Slideshare , a personal blog or webspace , google apps , flickr, scribd .. it could be a very long list and use these tools to share their learning materials.

Then students and teachers would  simply do a google or other search and they will find the useful learning materials created by their peers .

This is a cogent argument for not requiring a learning repository . The magical internet will  act as a storage, discovery and presentation medium for teachers and learners .

Well it could , but what would be needed for this to work would be standard global and local metadata standards and that they were uniformally  being applied . As learning materials went up into the cloud they would need to be tagged with at least some metadata to make them at least discoverable in a broad subject context and ideally tagged with some indication of what type of learner the materials are aimed at .  If things like LRMI and other standards were being adopted by organisations like google and other search platforms, then with some training in tagging for discoverability,  the cloud or even a local centre based learning materials bank would be the place to share learning materials .

One day this will be possible but at the moment it is not and we do need some national initiatives in this space. The technical arguments were won a long time ago but arguments for not supporting something like JORUM  seem to keep resurfacing .

The ETAG targets in England of getting 10% and then 50% of all Further Education online by 2017 has focussed minds and across the UK we need to support national repositories like Jorum and initiatives like the UK further education skills portal to make sure our teachers are sharing resources and our learners have access to a richer and relevant supply of learning materials.

I think it is important too that the vehicle for sharing lies outwith the bailiwick of any individual institution . The materials themselves can come branded but it important for deposit that the portal belongs to the commons. 



Friday, February 20, 2015

On Aspirations for Learning and Learners


I read an article today about future of learning
The whole article is worth reading but last section for me is what learning and learning anything is all about ...
"On the first day of my course, I tell students that they have three responsibilities: to advance their own learning, to advance the learning of their classmates and to advance the learning of their wider communities. If they are successful as students, they’ll benefit not only themselves, but their classmates and colleagues beyond." 
Justin Reich is the Richard L. Menschel HarvardX Research Fellow, and an Adjunct Lecturer in the Technology, Innovation, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Friday, January 30, 2015

College Development Network




I am settling in to a new office and new role and this week between snow showers I had a moment to enjoy the view .  I am looking forward to our mission to reinvigorate support to the further education sector in Scotland and take our support services out to new customers too.

I've been interviewed a few times this month - I've set out my ideas here. 

It has been a great month to arrive - I have already been able to meet most College Principals and Regional Chairs and our other partner agencies



Thursday, January 22, 2015

#BETT2015 Reflections on Day One



In between meetings I've walked about half the floor space will do rest by to tomorrow 

Feature of last few years lots of stands with the technology to manage class sets of tablets .  Lots of stands with systems for teaching primary learners programming many of them based on building and moving robots around and some them controlled by apps that you can use on your phone or mobile device .

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#bett2015 Nicky Morgan ministerial address

#bett2015 Nicky Morgan 






On education reforms in England all about restoring faith in school qualifications and breaking up the closed shop of the old educational establishment by giving learners and parents more choice.  We have have now broken the mould .  < hoping they haven't lost it > 

Then to problems infrastructure and skills problems in schools . 
English government now has world leading computing curriculum for primary and secondary schools . Teachers might not have skills to deliver this .  Through the computing at schools programme local computing master teachers can help primary teachers develop the skills.  The department for education allocating additional 3 million pounds to match fund new materials coming from range of private sector firms .
In addition will continue to provide grants of up to 25K for teachers who want to becoming computing teachers .

Accountability we have analogue system in a digital age ..parents and pupils need more data . Destination data will appear in league tables , Tax data will be used to evaluate career and qualification choices . Systems will be put in place to do real time monitoring around things like learners maths skills .

Report from Steven Heppell's group mentioned ..published today - see graphic above
Full Text here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_4FnLyL2BFvMjBOVFY4ZnhRVTA/view

Quickly scanning app for marking learners work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-KEk6w9o-U 
Not sure if scanning sheets like this is future or just embedding old bad assessment practices

Rising Stars supporting primary teachers with learning materials and software and just sold a package of this to Vietnam

The full text of speech is now available here https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nicky-morgan-speaks-at-the-2015-bett-show




#bett2015 Will be same old chat about new things ?


Bob Geldof kicks off #bett2015 he is a great advert for learners who fail in formal schooling system but I am sure too he went to quite a posh school in Dublin. Does that mean he had less far to fall ? still a great bloke and all uplifting stuff 

I am here on a fresh mission, this year as the new chief executive of the College Development Network. 

I am looking  at all things #etag .  Last year the English Education minister set some hugely ambitious targets for delivery of online further education in England 10% this year and 70% by 2017 driven by funding policies .  Is it actually happening ?  and is it happening in both a sustainable < I'd argue open educational resources way > and more importantly a learner centred way ? 

In addition continuing conversations with Microsoft , Google , Adobe , Smart Technologies and many more old partners and friends. 

Catching up too with small Scottish contingent that come south to engage with the massive industry that sits around educational technology. See previous year's posts we still can't all join up . 

I've still some spaces in my diary . If you have some compelling hardware , software , cloud service or content for further education colleges and Scottish learners tweet out to @joecar and I'll catch up with you .  Happy to help too if you want to find out how to engage with the Scottish Education system which is unique in UK .

Wherever you are from have a great #bett2015 and don't buy any of the sales folks bullshit look for the things that will make a difference to your learners .

Sunday, January 04, 2015

A Glance Backwards

I start a new job tomorrow as Chief Executive of College Development Network and there will be more blogs over the year on the challenges that lie ahead . But I thought I would just reflect for a moment on the experience of working for SQA - which was my home for the last eleven years and where I effectively had three different jobs.

A lot has changed since I arrived with my personal organiser (pictured above)  to be told this was non SQA equipment that I could face disciplinary action if I connected it to my SQA laptop - which was actually chained to my new desk. If  I wanted to transfer my address book to my SQA address book this was required to be re-keyed .  Fortunately a compromise was reached.

I was allowed too to start blogging again after an initial hiatus.

It would be fair to say SQA were not really ready for me. But a lot has changed.

The highs have been many and I can't list them all here - I got to work across most industrial sectors in Scotland - some of the more challenging work was around regulatory qualifications in areas like security , licensing  and social care. Working with colleagues in  helping to support the establishment of the paralegal profession in Scotland through the creation of clear qualification pathways . Moving what was a cottage industry of international awarding onto a robust business model .  Being one of the first countries in the world to embed relevant vocational computing qualifications into national awards and gaining recognition for this. Identifying a unique business opportunity and putting the first SQA awards through the new Ofqual recognition arrangements and positioning  units on the QCF ( I think the English system is the most bureaucratic and broken vocational system and with so many commercial interests around it that it is probably unfixable). Finding a range of ways that SQA could support the aspirations of Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

I also got to work in the USA , New Zealand , China , Abu Dhabi  , Lithuania, Slovenia  and many other fascinating bits of the world .

More recently watching the Digital Marketing Institute become a global entity , driving forward the recognition of the Scottish HND brand  through international articulation agreements  and leading thinking around the place of both open educational resources and open badges in Scottish Education and pushing on work around alternative forms of assessing through comparative pairs.

Above all working with committed and talented people both within the SQA and across the educational landscape.

I think we missed some opportunities along the way - Big History disappeared , Computer Wings - a productivity suite for the workplace - never got on the wing and often momentum was not maintained around some of our industry partnerships. 

Working for SQA in Scottish Education is a bit like being a referee - the referee is always at fault - the press , the unions , the universities regularly have a poke - even when they were probably at the meeting that agreed some proposed course of action. The SQA relies wholly on teachers and other appointees from colleges , classrooms and the workplace to both design and run the system.  To illustrate this I once had to respond to a College Principal who was irate at  the direction of travel of development that a particular HND was going down, on close investigation it was actually an internal spat in the College - two of the development team were from his College and their peers did not like the proposed changes that modernised some of the content, these changes had been accepted by Colleges across Scotland. Unaware of this level of national consensus war was declared on SQA.

SQA staff do their utmost to be fair to everyone -and the mantra - is that learners should never be disadvantaged. But as a organisation we are too often simply a reflection on the innate conservatism of our stakeholders .

Change in education is glacial - and this is creating an evergrowing tension - as technology allows learners to access knowledge when and where they need it .

Next week ; SQA could start doing far more on-line assessment , offer on-line e-portfolios , move from paper to digital certification , move our units descriptors that are subject to review - to being live documents that learners and teachers can suggest changes in - the systems are all in place - but the external system is not yet ready for this as some of these changes require leadership and support across the educational system.

There are too some deep chasms in the system around understanding of things like vocational qualifications. As I leave work is underway around the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce. I'll be involved in this at CDN end. But that a report could come out that really did not highlight that most of the vocational qualifications that schools need - are in existence and that the system through its focus on only exam based subjects in the STACS school performance system had actually created a perverse incentive for schools to ignore SQA vocational units and awards as they did not count in STACS - is almost beyond belief - but is really just a feature of glacial change.

Driving on the new as I did latterly inevitably means that folks will come along behind and take some things in a new direction and or stifle and unpick the innovations they least liked - that is their prerogative as long as the interests of the learner stays at the centre .

I think the SQA is now ready to really start digitally transforming . I hope that the powers that lie around it and its stakeholders support this . It is a very unique institution in the UK though not in most other countries around the world as most  have national or state awarding organisations for schools and for vocational awarding. 

If you want to shape education in Scotland SQA is a great place to work - be brave - be courageous and drive change for the sake of the learners and you will get an enormous amount out of the experience too.










Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hands up for Change #CETIS14 #oer #openscot #oeps




Earlier this year  at the #cetis14 conference in Bolton we were set the task of being from an imaginary country and setting out the case for a national policy on open educational resources around the lines of the Unesco Open Education Declaration . I did a similar presentation at the College Development Network last week.

When you ask most folks if they are prepared to put their hands up for the kind of change that is needed  you get a great response - when you ask the next question about who is prepared to lead or start the change that is needed - the hands stay down.

Here were some of the use cases I made .

Some might see some parallels with real places and people but of course this is purely co-incidental. This is an imaginary country with fictional challenges.

The teacher

If I were a teacher in my imaginary county I would expect a lot of regular open online CPD especially from some of the other institutions  that often knock standards in schools . I'd like teaching resources I can repurpose for my learners . If we start with a shopping list then principally  in areas where human knowledge is moving fast and curriculum is changing .. areas like the Human Genome , HTML5 perhaps how to set up and use a 3D printers but list could really extend into most subject areas .

I do acknowledge that I can already get a lot of these materials from the open web but it would be great if local colleges and universities could do more to help me and my learners particularly as  I've just been asked to look at ways of delivering more vocationally relevant programmes. How could colleges and employers help me here with relevant open materials ?

I'd like to to be able to take and repurpose for my pupils some chunks of the massive open online course I dropped out of as it was running over  a period when I had a full timetable. I need asynchronous access to these resources.

At  the moment this looks as though it is not possible as the licensing of the MOOC materials prevents me from using chunks of the courses with my learners.

I'd be keen too to embed a relevant MOOC in my classroom teaching but I am not sure how this will be regarded by my managers. Will they think I am redundant ?

I'd also like  to be free to share any learning materials I develop openly with both other teachers and learners and not be constrained by a contract that does not allow me to share learning materials with colleagues , beyond my school , beyond my local authority ,  with institutions or individuals that are not schools, or beyond national boundaries.

I am not sure if anyone other than my employers realise that this is currently a major constraint on enabling the sharing of learning materials .

I'd like some more information about Creative Commons licensing so I can share materials non commercially and still receive appropriate attribution.

Ok let's look to an other sector ...

The major employer

I am the CEO of a major company that specialises in .. Take your pick . Engineering , Telecommunications , Hospitality, computing, customer care etc .  We spend millions of pounds a year on the training of staff mainly,  we claim, repairing the damage that  has been done in schools , colleges and universities .  I'd be keen to open up some of our training resources,  they are online already . I can't get anyone in educational establishment to speak to me ?  Why is this the case ?

The school pupil

I am school pupil I am not sure what I want to do when I leave school . I have had lots of information describing lots of different occupations and courses, but I'd really like to try some of these courses before I commit to studying something for the next three or four years . Where can  I experience some of the courses that are not taught in schools ..what is involved in pharmacy , marketing , Webdesign  , this could be a long list..

What is the difference between the maths I do now and maths for engineering or computing ? . I can already sample some of this by looking at materials from a range of international institutions but there is not much experiential material available from my local college or university available on the web ? Why not ?

The school library has not bought any new resources for the last five years and we use 10 year old textbooks in class that are held together by wallpaper book covers.

I know there are a lot of other free resources on the web but they seem to come mostly from other countries and a lot of the really useful stuff still seems filtered out in school.

I have the online skills to do an online course but the school only offers classroom based programmes. I'd like to do some computing courses but our school does not have a computing teacher.

The Academic

I am an academic who despairs at the decline in standards in numeracy , literacy , computational thinking , problem solving , teaching etc ... I regularly vent my anxieties to the national  media . Though surrounded by experts and lots of materials that could support learners in schools , colleges and informal learning    I have not figured out a way to fulfil my social responsibility  beyond a once a year public lecture and the occasional column in the times educational supplement criticising the education system.

 I do publish articles in a well known global social science journal but as the annual subscription fees are £15,000 these articles don't attract a broad readership, beyond my own and the 5 other  reputable elite UK university libraries that subscribe to this journal.

I am deeply suspicious of the open research agenda. Why would anyone ever give away anything ?  I'm thinking about doing a Ted talk but only if they pay me my usual fee.

We do a MOOC a year funded from our marketing budget  to attract high fee paying  international students Openness is just a fad that will pass . 

The Adult learner

I am an adult over the age of 24 sometimes in a low paid job and sometimes out of work . My shift patterns and other family commitments prevent me engaging with education beyond occasionally dipping into Wikipedia and YouTube .  I am looking for some flexible online ways I can update my skills but I can only ever find stuff that is for university graduates or foreign stuff.

The policy maker

I am a senior civil servant . I've signed the official secrets act so I am really very uncomfortable with sharing anything .  The freedom of information act has honed my skills in redacting anything whatsoever that a member of the public might find useful . Open is already a minefield professionally and more openness in Education could,  we've been advised by our external legal advisors, only be dealt with on a case by case basis , any materials, to be made open would need to be scanned by our legal team page by page at a great cost . I've advised the minister that this area is highly controversial and we better take a lead on this from our biggest and richest institutions .Whatever they suggest,   after a few years research, we will then have a look into.

I can see some real benefits in schools , colleges and universities sharing learning materials but I am really not sure that they should be sharing these learning materials with anyone else . Above all, no-one wants the blame if some of these open materials are not very good .  If we open things up then the public and the press will see what schools , colleges and universities give to their learners. That might create some misunderstandings.

Endpiece

I am sure this could strike a few harmonious chords perhaps even some discordant ones.  These are purely imaginary barriers.

I used each of the cases above to make a case for some open educational policy  driven at government level to encourage open practice at institutional and individual level across life long learning It is what prompted the authoring of http://declaration.openscot.net/ and I have great hopes that http://oepscotland.org/   will push things on.

We need to create the next generation of open institutions and of open practitioners and it's not just a fetish for learning content.

The next generation of learners will be designing their own courses ,repurposing and developing their own learning content .. but that is another post.