Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2017 - Phew ! Happy New Year 2018 !



2017 , What a quick year !

A chunk doing some international speaking, Valletta, Malta, Warsaw , Poland  , Ljubljana , Slovenia  with UNESCO  for open educational resource related policy forums.  Hoping great things will finally come out of the 2nd #OER World Congress.  Scotland could do so much more here. It's been great to be involved in this work with my co-conspirator +Lorna Campbell   around Open Scotland . This could be year when more institutions and above all policy makers in Scotland get on board. Bonus,  I had never been to Malta or Warsaw and Ljubljana is always worth revisiting.

It is always a pleasure too to work with the #oer18 conference crew and the #oer community globally, I've been on #oer bus since the first conference ( in fact part of sharing communities since last century) ,  and of course the Association for Learning Technology in the UK and my colleagues in JISC and those in and around #FELTAG.

Re-building the  Scottish international pages for Education Scotland and the British Council. Facilitating Indian, Uzbekistan  and other international visitors around the Scottish vocational landscape. Where it makes sense our vocational system sells well internationally.
I wear my British Council consultant badge with pride.

Coping with digital disruption; A road map for a global standards setting and awarding organisation. Systems, learning environments , repositories , new quality arrangements for centre approval to encourage and support digital learning .. all that jazz in a global environment with much less Ofqual etc regulation . The new landscape presents challenges to the public and private sectors. It was great to work with an organisation who operate globally and willing to challenge themselves and their centres to create a better offer for their learners. I look forward to seeing the new strategic plan come into fruition.

Facilitating an International Digital Learning Symposium - that was a pleasure, as was becoming an SCQF Reviewer and being in and out of Holyrood once again as a member of Goodison Group's Education Futures Forum.

Working with a UK based partner to change face of teacher training in Scotland - and being amazed and appalled  in equal measure by intransigence and self interest so obviously alive in the teacher training system in Scotland. I think there is probably more to run on this next year.

Ongoing work with innovative companies who want to shake up the virtual learning environment space , digital assessment space , social learning space and indeed all things digital learning.

On going work too , around UK vocational reform - mainly in England.

I can justify graded apprenticeships , I can see the positive impact of embedding a refreshed set of core skills including 'digital literacy ' rather than simply 'IT'  . I understand training accounts and why employers need a bigger say in what they access with their training levy. I can see large employers encouraging learners to take apprenticeships in areas where degrees in the past were the entry route - accountancy , law , financial services.  I can see too that all of this needs a lot more thought in Scotland. I hope the new overarching committee finally lines up the activities of SFC , SDS , Scottish Enterprise and HIE . I hoped that would happen last year . I still fear that whole Scottish system could be usurped by some of these changes

It has been a busy and rewarding year  - since my last report in April 2017 and I've probably missed some chunks out.

But now looking forward to #Bett2018 and driving forward CityLearning4.0 into the new year.

Creativity, Mindfulness , Resilience - I've got that in spades - but I would not have achieved all of this without the ongoing support of all the very capable folk who work in and around vocational education in Scotland, across the UK and beyond. You know who you are ! Thanks for the continued stream of interesting, challenging and rewarding bits or work.

Nor would I have kept this portfolio career going without the support of  my wife and family too - it's been tough sometimes to explain what an 'Educational Consultant' does, one day working from the home office - the next rushing to an airport along with the associated peaks and troughs in income that will be familiar to every consultant.

Thanks to you all for your continued support and all the very best to you and yours for 2018 !

For those looking for a change - there is a sea of opportunity out there -dive in and be the change you want to see in the system !

For goodness sake if you see something that you can fix - speak up and fix it !

In 2018 get your heads above the parapet and lead for the sake of learning and learners !

How is that for some mixed metaphors,  in these mixed up times !




Monday, December 04, 2017

#DigCompEdu Citylearning4.0 10 things


I've been given the opportunity to shape CityLearning4.0,  an ambitious strategy to change the face of delivery at City of Glasgow College.

Here are some practical tips we gave some staff last week.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

#cogcdigisymp Some Quick Wins


CC Devon Poole 2nd Year Photography City of Glasgow College 


Yesterday, I was kindly invited to chair the afternoon discussion session at the City of Glasgow College's Digital Symposium. In the morning we bounced around the very familiar landscape of the gulf that still exists between the needs of the computing industry and the outputs from all parts of the education sector ( schools , colleges , universities ) . I am of course sorting that out in another blog post.

My solution would be to get Colleges to work more closely with industry but with staff development and a much greater cascading of skills with the resources going through the arteries that exist for staff development and the shaping of qualifications - rather than inventing new and I'll say it probably not very sustainable new models but I can hear a civil servant being satisfied and saying ' at least we got the money out of the door' and the disappearing footsteps of a politician moving on to the next big task having built a new service as a personal legacy.

It might seem faster to create shiny new organisations or new kinds of apprenticeship - but without deep engagement and some retooling and re-skilling of the existing organisations, agencies and staff - the money will run out before we have achieved the system level change that is required. My favourite anecdote comes from a primary teacher who loves all the coding stuff and the folk who come to the school, as it allows more time for marking and a cup of tea. The skills transfer that is happening is zero, perhaps this will be picked up soon.

While from College staff I heard that some of the links between vendor awards and SQA qualifications have drifted apart again and that staff need some focused formal re-training , a bit more than the half day taster sessions on new technologies that are currently on offer. We wondered out loud too who is training the vocational assessors in the University sector - graduate apprenticeships sound great but they do require quite a sharp change in University assessment processes. And apprenticeships are based on national standards not institutionally validated ones or interpreted ones, hope some external verification arrives with these.

Why are we still talking about giving appropriate recognition for all the teaching staff who do the Apple , Microsoft, Google and many more programmes in becoming a digital educator ? This probably has more impact on learners than many of the academic programmes on offer. And from conversations around the gathering still lots of digs at education leaders who can't cope with the technology -I  hope that an understanding of  the application of technology in learning features highly in any leadership programmes perhaps this is as important as learning and modelling your management style . There must be sensible bridges built here.

In the afternoon we had some great discussion around digital literacy and changing the delivery models  in schools , colleges , universities and work-based learning. That is bit I was chairing.

From that session I  promised I would list the things I said on the day. The things that as a College you could do now.

Here they are , in no particular order;

  1. Edx  https://github.com/edx - We discussed the inability of our system to do more that mark multiple choice questions using artificial intelligence. I am not sure I like using AI in context of what in assessment jargon is automated MCQ.  There is a solution at hand but I've never found an organisation with the appetite to adopt it and use it in anger. Give it a sample of 100 essays and it then marks and grades them at a high degree of reliability.  ( I'd actually stop using essays as a means of assessment but that is another blog post) 
  2. Content creation - I've been plugging this for a while most teachers with a power point will be able to cope with https://lumen5.com/  Most staff should of course have a reflective blog,  that would make using Lumen5 even more compelling. 
  3. If you have staff who are a bit more adventurous get everyone using https://h5p.org/ you can create engaging learning materials and port them straight into your virtual learning environment. 
  4. If you want to see what AI can do at speed to build serviceable on line courses then catch a demo of http://www.wildfirelearning.co.uk/ Donald explains how it works on the website 
  5. Make sure your organisation has a Wikipedian You can find out how to do this here and get some advice  http://open.ed.ac.uk/wikipedia-training-lesson-plan/  If you have a wikipedian they can register your College IP address and this means that you can use wikipedia and other tools properly in the classroom. It all about collaborative creation. It is much more than wikipedia - check out all the things that wikimedia can bring to you on Ewen McAndrew's blog.
  6. Learn how to harvest , harness , create and publish open educational resources from Scotland and the OER global community - there are just too many links to add here. But here is a local start http://open.ed.ac.uk/how-to-guides/ to get staff creating. 
  7. Get ready for open text books http://ukopentextbooks.org/  a raft of content about to arrive and the programme is looking for Scottish College partners. If you would like a workshop in your institution, you can email vivien.rolfe@gmail.com  One for all Colleges in Scotland would be good. 
  8. Have a look at the UNESCO action plan . Open Scotland and others will keep pushing for the adoption of  a policy change across Scottish Education - but look at the bits you could do now as a leader of learning , as a classroom practitioner , as a signatory to the Open Scotland Declaration.Get moving ! 
  9. Remember you don't have to be Edinburgh University to open up to learners - but have a good look at http://open.ed.ac.uk/ and embrace the way of working. Start learning too about open research and knowledge  and how to access it - it will enrich learning at all levels.
  10. Discover and use Learning Wheels and look out for the announcement on 10th of October  
  11. Don't reinvent the wheel check out things like http://www.23things.ed.ac.uk/ and make it better 
  12. Give more love to your learning technologists and give them appropriate staff development and let them out to meet other learning technologists - it will help you move forward at all levels . Join https://www.alt.ac.uk/ and encourage relevant staff to work towards https://www.alt.ac.uk/certified-membership 
  13. Have a look at http://aims.fao.org/activity/blog/digital-skills-and-digital-literacy-european-union-policy-actions There is a competency framework that should be embedded in what we do with learners and in staff development and in how Colleges are inspected - schools too ! 
  14. Think passed where you are now - for some, perhaps the computing department the future should be in the cloud and virtual machines , for learners a domain of their own,  but  for the institution it might be looking towards https://www.canvasvle.co.uk/ 
  15. And finally a MOOC is about to start for the Vocational and Training sector to develop blended learning skills https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/blended-learning-digital-skills/

Grateful to the creatives,  doing some great things in the main area of the conference, for capturing me in zany mode. I hope these links and reflections are useful.

Apologies too to all the great initiatives from Jisc and some of the other organisations I work for and with - it could have been a much longer and more technical list.

I am looking forward to seeing all the slides from the day.

If you understand learning needs to be creative and engaging for staff and learners I'm always ready to help you do better things in new ways.

Thanks to City of Glasgow College for hosting the International Symposium.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

To See Ourselves as Others See Us




It's been a great week touring around and listening to domain experts from across Scotland with an international delegation,  looking at our technical and professional learning system.

It was a wee while in the planning,  but good things take time.  Great too to reflect on why they are interested in the Scottish technical and professional vocational system.

1. It makes sense,  ( not always the case when you are too close to it  and it is sometimes too easily dismissed by some around and within our own system) the work of SCQF , SQA , Education Scotland and SDS in making sure that there are clearly funded progression pathways through different vocations into work or onto further study. The Colleges make sure it is a collaborative effort to get this right.

2. The links between qualifications and national occupational standards and in the main the transparent way that these relate to each other. The strong links to industry that all the Colleges work to maintain.  We saw learners working with the latest equipment from tractors to TV studios with equipment often supplied by employers.

3. The unit based , competency based qualification structures  - based on notional 40 hours of study or in some cases short 10 hour SCQF credit and leveled courses that can lead to both academic and vocational progression make sense. The logic and structure of this appealed to our visitors  as well as the flexible and varied assessment methodologies that are in place. The evidence that it makes sense exemplified by the many deep international relationships in place across and beyond Europe between College and international partners. These competencies are embedded in the Scottish system and travel around the world.  I'd make one rule though ,  if it is  not an exportable qualification, let's not make it - we seem to be crowding our system with different types and titles of award.

4. Core skills - that we try to give learners a set of transferable skills - both in the workplace and through their College courses. That we are working hard to build in entrepreneurship into all of our programmes and giving learners as much direct business experience as we can. The philosophy of  a Curriculum for Excellence along with Developing Scotland's Young Workforce  and the efforts made in reaching into schools to show that progression to higher education is not the only path to professional and fulfilling careers struck a chord with our guests. The work of Young Enterprise Scotland in supporting creative thinking and of  Business Gateway Scotland in supporting those who want to start their own ventures -opened the eyes of our visitors.

5. Our College governance arrangements , funding arrangements and quality checks from Education Scotland , SQA , SFC,  SDS , national and regional plans and monitoring   - the externals thought it was a lot of auditing. I think some in system think the same.

6. The dedication of all the teaching staff to the success of their learners . I know on these outings we sometimes meet the handpicked rather than those having a tough week. But all the Colleges we visited had inspired learners and inspiring and supportive teaching staff who welcomed us into their classrooms and we just popped into classrooms along our tour.

7. That through the Princes Trust and others we reach out to the hard to reach and work hard to get young learners to take a full and active part in our society and our economy.

8. That private training providers , charities and employers all play a part in delivering the system as a whole. .

Thanks to all the Colleges and agencies that opened their doors and made significant inputs.  I am sure a range of opportunities will open up in this region. I've now got a lot of data and documents to gather together and sometimes the tougher job of explaining some parts of our system that still don't make sense.  Why for instance all HND learners cannot progress into 3rd year of any relevant degree programme and equally why there is not a seamless progression from an apprenticeship into HND or HNC with advanced standing and why schools are still not embedding a lot more vocational options.
Perhaps, too why learners persist in taking up places on University courses that often have no clear routes to employment. ( I can hear the poet in me rebelling - but we still don't have the mix right). 

They are thinking about redirecting greater resources to Colleges as they understand the economic impact this will have on their learners and their society as a whole. 'The next generation of technicians and entrepreneurs will spring from the workplace and from the College sector'  It is a good vision.

On reflection perhaps  we do not always value the contribution that this eminently exportable system makes to the Scottish economy as a whole.

And as a final footnote - three Colleges said they were the biggest at something - this does not always  impress better to explain the quality of the learning and teaching and present evidence of the  positive destinations of the learners and then perhaps add how big you are. Our guests were amused by this as they have a population of over 30 million and some gigantic institutions.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Open Scotland Declaration - Still Garnering International Recognition #OER


It is great that this work coordinated and authored by my co-conspirator and co-founder of Open Scotland , Lorna Campbell of Edinburgh University,  continues to attract global recognition and attention.

I've been responding today,  to the Polish Government. I know too  that the work is currently forming the basis of policies in Morocco and beyond in the middle east as well as being the basis for many other global policy initiatives.

But I had to re-iterate today that the Open Scotland Declaration is a statement of intent to engage Scottish policy makers and institutions to support changes across  our system –but it is not,  as yet, reflected in any  government policy.

I know the Scottish Government is currently reviewing its own plans for the next five years - I hope that story changes soon.

Our progress best summarized here in Lorna's post 

In response to the enquiry around adopting Scotland's policy and giving some examples of open policy and practice in Scotland -  I responded 

  1. http://declaration.openscot.net/  is the Open Scotland Declaration,  it is a statement of ambition and demonstrates an approach towards having national policy in place.
  2. http://openscot.net/     Is the community blog from Open Scotland,  a grass roots organisation to promote greater openness. 
  3. https://oepscotland.org/   Is an example of a national initiative led by the Open University in Scotland  to encourage more open practices, this was funded in part as a  response to Open Scotland.
  4. http://open.ed.ac.uk  Is an institutional response to becoming more open from Edinburgh University and is in part as a direct response to Open Scotland. 
I know other work is underway at Glasgow Caledonian University and we are fortunate through ALT the Association of Learning Technology to have a strong network of innovators across Scotland and we can see the green shoots of open education appearing across the University and to some extent the Galleries , libraries and museums sector . It would be great to be able to say that the Government were endorsing this approach in Scotland and that schools , colleges , and the training sector were coming on board.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Key Messages from UNESCO European Regional Consultation #OER #Openscot #Digiscot


I had a moment or two this morning to try out Lumen5  what a cool tool - but I hope you pick up the key messages as well as learning about this new medium