Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Reflections and Predictions

thanks to  littleperson1832 for image

Last year's predictions were among others that  that "flipped classroom" would become the bullshit bingo word of the year Well I think it came to pass .

I heard it used by number of  touring educational gurus , senior educational managers and academics usually from the lectern or from the stage during  keynotes where no effort was really made to engage the audience. It would be good to get  a greater sense of a flipped classroom at some of the big keynote events like BETT in England or SLF in Scotland. There is still too an attitude that change and innovation comes from above and not from within organisations. Gurus should be setting audiences challenges not coming along with their own stock answers ..I think this was apparent this year in the political domain too across the UK but enough said on that.

It was the year too of the tablet - and they are marvellous and miraculous devices for consuming things . I think they are still challenged when it comes to creating and producing things.

So what to look forward too

1. I think Mozilla Badges and the impact of smaller chunks of assessment. particularly in the computing and coding areas will really support both staff development and learners. It works well in areas like webdesign as the infrastructure is there to support learners.  Have a look at the Mozilla Webmaker tools and badges

We are well positioned to support these in schools , colleges and work-based learning. Our policy in terms of accreditation of prior learning is well developed. I am hoping this helps speed up the adoption of initiatives like this across Scottish education and beyond.  I look forward to pushing this on with Sunny Lee and Doug Belshaw  (Check out Doug's badges on his blog)

2. Is a MOOC a Massive Open On-line Course or a Massively Optimistic Over-Hyped Course ? - Time will tell.   I believe that where the providers of MOOCS make their content open rather use  these as marketing windows or discounted ways to gain accreditation then they will become game changers - as folks will use the content in other useful ways. If the content was open then learners could really see what was involved in a particular course before signing up to it . School teachers could use chunks of learning for their own development and  use these with their students. School students could engage with open material directly. In many workplaces they will  become part of continuous professional development.

I like the optimism and the sense of discovery that surround these programmes.

It is easy to forget that learning is all about a sense of optimism and discovery - it is what spurs learning on.

It also needs to be valued and nurtured - whether it is  happening in a nursery class or with adult and community learners. However humble the learning - the sense of discovery is magical.

3. Open Content is the way ahead . It has been great to share the journey of JORUM over the last 10 years ( If it's inception is taken as the early discussions at the JISC Joint Committee for the Information Environment ) We have a real opportunity to push this on in Scotland through Scotland's Colleges Resource and I hope through the future iteration of GLOW. Ubiquitous and available learning is an important part of the Scottish learning tradition and we need to embrace OER. 

But we do need more policy drivers in this space and I hope through working with the Association for Learning Technology in Scotland we can get these. It would be great if this was the year that the Scottish Government , The Scottish Funding Council and all the educational agencies in Scotland , including my own  could make a commitment to Open Educational Resources. This would support College Regionalisation  break down the local authority silos in schools and almost above all encourage Higher Education to stop pontificating on what happens in schools ,  colleges and work-based learning and encourage them to contribute by sharing  more learning materials.

4. Will Higher Education in Scotland start working with rest of the education system ?  I have high hopes that this might be the year. We've done the right thing in giving HE some more resource over last few years and they occupy a position envied by many in rest of UK . If they opened up a bit more Universities could really support learning across Scotland and beyond. I think a special mention to Edinburgh University for leading charge on joining Coursera but these on-line courses don't come with open educational resources.

Hope that is enough food for thought and may you have a happy and prosperous 2013 when it arrives.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gun Law - Better to Shoot with Words

I don't often use my blog to tell stories. I hope one day my gun mad six year old son reads this. 
At the moment he is with the Arizona gun lobby who wish to arm teachers discretely and at a discount so they can fight back when their schools are attacked.
Ideally, he would like the six year olds to have guns too.

In around 1990 I spent my first holiday in Washington DC.  I had a great trip but while I was there two 14 year old boys shot each other in a school changing room. It was all over the local media but such a frequent occurrence it was not picked up by the national media. It was a school in a poor predominantly black area where gun crime and gang fighting was endemic, apparently. The media focus was on the school janitors and their lax use of the school metal detectors which had allowed the two boys to bring hand guns into the school. The school district and the janitors looked like they were going to be sued for negligence.

All this was very alien to me. .and I'd been teaching for five years in Glasgow.

It happened that evening I was meeting some distant relatives who were the offspring of my grandfather's wee sister who moved over to the states from Ibrox at the end of WW1. They were a really nice, socially aware, academic couple, proud of their Scottish heritage, who had done well and were running impressive chunks of the Smithsonian. In lots of ways they seemed the same as me, further on in their careers but battling away in that middling educational way to make the world a better place.

Half way through a highly enjoyable meal I asked why no-one in the media had really queried why it was illegal but easy for fourteen year olds to access firearms.

Politely, the gulf in our two cultures suddenly opened up.

Guns were important for protection. I came from a more peaceful part of the world and did not appreciate this. I struggled when I was told that they had a lot of guns and the  licences for them. Indeed, as we sat in the smart diner on the Potomac I was told that they had a piece in her pocket book to deter muggers and at home in a posh suburb of Washington they had among their arsenal an assault rifle which was needed, as it could shoot through the engine block of a truck. The assault rifle was protection against domestic ram raiding which had recently reached epidemic proportions.

The conversation moved on. 
As I moved unarmed back to my digs in Georgetown along the streets that seemed a bit meaner I thought these really nice folk were under siege . The ready availability of guns which they prized as a symbol of their freedom did not seem to give them or their children the liberty they sought.

I hope following this weekend's events it gets harder to access firearms in the USA and no more six year olds need to die.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Inventing the Future of Learning

Sit down and take time to look at this if you are a parent , teacher , policy maker or have an interest in Education - this maps out the short term future of learning very well and the immediate challenges that the system faces. Video comes from project site