Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ch..Ch..Ch. . Changes

In the damp, dark, fag-end of the year it is easy to forget how much is going on in a wee place like Scotland to drive on the knowledge economy in School, College, University, Community and Workbased learning. Each sector is in its own way facing large transitional challenges
  • Schools - dealing with Curriculum for Excellence, New Inspection Framework and roll out of GLOW
  • Colleges - new Inspection Framework, national certificate developments, impact of recession and Curriculum for Excellence, emergence of Scotland's Colleges as a support agency.
  • Workplace - UK Vocational Reform Programme and impact on Scotland, impact of recession, emergence of Skills Development Scotland as policy and support agency.
  • Community Based - struggling with funding cutbacks at all levels and looking for new models of support
  • University - perhaps not enough change but deep anxieties around funding.
There can be high levels of introspection in each of these sectors which can detract from their support for life long learning and the needs of our citizens. Schools can overly focus on schooling whatever that may be without reference to wider economy and vocational needs of learners. Colleges and work-based learning on too narrow a vocational skill set without looking at core skills , personal and social development and transferable skills. Community learning on engagement with but not progression for learners and Universities stuck on research while being inconsistent on skills , retention and the learning and teaching experience they offer.

Some of these challenges are not new - but there are increasingly useful internal and external developments that can drive change.

Monday, November 16, 2009

E- Assessment in Practice

Last week I spent two days attending and presenting at the E-Assessment in Practice Conference held at the UK Defence Academy Shrivenham. A few things jumped out.

MCQ ( multiple choice questions) Mainly in corporate space but now reaching down to most levels of employee, organisations around the world use on-line MCQ tests as a means of hiring, firing and auditing staff understanding of procedures ( compliance). Success at interview could be based on your personality profile and in some tightly regulated environments redundancy looms for those who cannot pass six monthly tests around procedures and product knowledge. For all the science and ingenuity that these systems have - I have seen this coming for a wee while, I am uncomfortable with the methodology and practices used here ( for instance American Real Estate Agents are traditionally tightly assessed in this way , go figure ! ) - but teachers and learners do need to know these are the standard employer practices that lie ahead.

Advances in on-line test generation and feedback systems for Maths , Physics and Engineering . Two or three systems were presented that allow both the automatic creation of mathematical problems and the automation of feedback to learners. These systems are really clever and feedback from learners does seem positive. These systems do seem very soulless but then I suppose this may be in keeping with the cold rationale of Science. They are designed to give learners almost limitless practice with computer generated feedback in areas like differentiation, algebra and calculus where undergraduates struggle. My question in this perhaps unfairly would be around the quality of the teaching input. Some of these systems look like closed loops that allow researchers to get on with research while undergraduates communicate with computers - but this may be unjustified cynicism.

Finally a few things sit better with my universe. Sarah De Freitas did an excellent presentation in developments in Serious Gaming worth looking out for Nano-mission, Flood Sim and the mind control offered by NeuroSky . The QCA presented some good guidance on on-line assessment available from the efutures website and the Open University showcased amazing work around language teaching and assessment

And as final footnote of the innovative offerings present from BTL , Tag Learning , OpenSim and others perhaps with exception of NeuroSky we are working out on the frontiers with them.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Virtual World of War Poets 1914-1918

A timely resource with Rememberance Sunday approaching but one that should also make us pause and think about our teaching pratice and how they are going to change - when learners can immerse themselves in world's like this or better still build resources like this ..