Saturday, January 27, 2018

That's #BETT18 #BETT2018 #BETTShow #Bettshow18

Joe Wilson cc Leon Cych @eyebeams

That the delegates , exhibitors and conference organisers never seem to be quite able to agree on a unifying hashtag probably sums up the UK's biggest Educational Technology gathering . There is at once something for everyone and always that feeling that the really interesting , paradigm shifting piece of the jigsaw is tantalisingly missing , perhaps it is a virtual piece or in some other augmented reality ( no shortage of augmented and virtual reality in the show)

This year for once the meeting app worked well but the wifi I'm told was abysmal as usual.

If there was a unifying theme among the polished rabble of  hawkers , vendors , sideshows and keynote speakers this year,  it's probably the theme of 'Industry 4.0 '  This sits well with our mission to transform learning at City of Glasgow College through Citylearning4.0

It is a great privilege to get to gatherings like this and with that I think comes an obligation to share! 
I wonder what those I spotted from Education Scotland and SQA thought of this year's show.

Day One 

The usual running order and , as is often the case at BETT,  a new Education and Skills Minister. They appear to be upgraded every two years , like phones , but rarely come with new features.  The change of guard often comes in a new year reshuffle which can make it a tough gig for the incoming minister . While Anne Milton set out the stall many folks knew that there was a more ambitious vision that had been prepared for her predecessor. I hope some of these ideas around digital literacy for all  arrive later in the year. It does present a more unifying vision than you find in other parts of UK . Also in this sphere it was  interesting that a new coding institute was announced not at BETT but at World Economic Forum in same week.

I had my usual schedule of meetings with those I think have the tools and ideas to move learning on . Here is a quick summary of what I was having a look at.

Unio by Harness 
Already used by growing number of schools across globe, I can see the attraction in schools space.
I think some of this capacity already in side GLOW for schools in Scotland.

Lucas Nuelle
When someone says 'these are the training systems used inside the German apprenticeship system', you need to have a look. Highly developed and finished training systems for most kinds of engineering . The sort of kit that many Colleges and Universities need for training learners for both the practical and theoretical elements of industrial learning. Yes, some of this can be virtualised now, but nothing beats setting up and working with real equipment.

From South Africa now a global player. A provider of digital text books along with a layer for note taking , additional support materials and assessment. Pushing into the school space. The College and University sector with virtual learning environments make assumptions around how digital texts are used in their own systems - interesting to see new models to encourage better embedding of digital texts coming from the school sector.

Magic Software Inc 
A super Indian company working out at the cutting edge and delivering content and learning solutions for publishers and large global corporations. A great example of the small world we now live in when it comes to accessing and harnessing innovation from anywhere in the world.

Techcamp / Invent Ed
Interesting to see this summer camp model emerging in England . Wasn't there to explore that. They have developed lots of simple robots , circuit boards and bots that they use as part of these technical summer schools and are now marketing these too. There are lots of robots and circuit boards about at BETT this year. At least you know these models have been tried and tested through the techcamps.

Frog Education
This was a select gathering of Scottish Schools folk to have a look at a simple way of comparing learners materials against national standards . Something you might think that primary and secondary schools would have at the heart of their learning infrastructure. I am sure we will be hearing more about this innovative system over next year.

An early evening meeting with the innovative team behind Intcas, who are well on the way to developing a system that will change the face of international student recruitment and worth tuning into. A superb system for verifying and tracking international learners, it will become invaluable to institutions, learners , their parents and sponsors - through the ingenious use of social media and the harnessing of big data.

Day Two 

Starts with a quick dip into a session on Education and Industry4.0 chaired ably as ever by Bob Harrison with input from the new College of High Speed Rail  . I think there is now a pretty standard slide deck doing the rounds on what Industry4.0  it is delivered well ,  but also some invaluable insights around how the new College will be using virtual and augmented reality in teaching and assessment.

We also hear how well funded all of this is . I think I would have preferred to hear that this was being delivered and funded by a set of pre-existing colleges. But all credit to new college for its vision. I think a trip to see it in action will be a must for many Colleges across the UK.

A layer ( this is becoming a recurrent theme) that helps teachers and learners make more effective use of video resources no matter what format they are in. The tool can be embedded into any VLE. Interesting and parallels with some other systems I am aware of . Also captures learners interaction with content for learner and for institutional analysis.

They have a house this year at BETT - maybe they are betting their house on another successful year in Education and learning ? .  As always a lot of good things happening, if anything it reminded me I am overdue a sit down with Andy Nagle and the team in Scotland - they have a big part to play in raising learner and teacher digital literacy . I'm glad to see less minecraft this year and a sharper focus on digital literacy for teachers and learners.

Canvas by Instructure
If you have spotted some of my postings over the last year - you know I am a Canvas fan. It is just so learner friendly and now adopted by both Stirling University and Glasgow School of Art . There will be some more conversations with Canvas over the next few months and I expect other Scottish Colleges will join in too.

Blended Learning Consortium
Grabbed some lunch with Peter from the BLC . Is it the best model ?  - I'm not sure - but it works for many Colleges across the UK and I know we are going to enjoy the benefits of becoming a member.

Google Education
I've used the link to the Scottish Google Educators Group. There is lots on the open web about Google for Education - there was one announcement around a paid for enterprise edition which I think some universities and training organisations will probably be interested in.

This was biggest gathering I've seen for a while of Scottish school learning technology folk at BETT for any offering, even free drink . The excitement was palpable and Google Apps for Education are excellent.  We will get all of this embedded in our own College's delivery. All learners really need to know their way around microsoft and google products. They should also be shown around a range of open source tools.

Fujitsu Education
A pleasant dinner with the team from Fujitsu and their partners Intel , Netapp and more,  who are driving out an ambitious learning programme supporting learners and teachers - we look forward to supporting the programmes roll out in Scotland.

Day Three 

Like to Be
Well any excuse to catch up with Steve Wheeler . But the system is worth a look - linking employers to school learners at every stage and doing the important bits that careers guidance still falls very short on. While English and Welsh systems are different I've promised them an introduction to Skills Development Scotland.

This I think is innovative,  a drone that you print using a 3-D printer , build and at same time  build and create a controller and comes with all the associated teaching and learning materials. A small inside version and a very large drone for flying outside. Looks great for engaging learners of all ages in STEM

A really nice team and a very welcome cup of tea . I liked what I saw but I do wonder how the authentic voices they use will fair in a world of increasing artificial intelligence and automated voices.

Ollie Bray
He is so innovative and fast moving he is not keeping his blog up to date - lunch and a quick chat around both the movement and inertia in Scottish Education.

London CLC and Education Development Trust
A quick chat about impact CLC and more broadly how the Education Development Trust has supported school transformation and teacher development in England . There is so much that could be learned here by Scottish system. See comment above about inertia.

Nisai Academy
A flying visit to say hello to Dhruv and team  - and disbelief that Scottish system is still using peripatetic teachers to visit learners who can't make it to school - when  the learner could be part of an online class with a teacher and classmates everyday - see inertia ;-)

Free for teachers still a superb tool grabbed a quick refresher course as I headed for the door

Northern Ireland Stand
I'll not rehash arguments I've made in previous years about why Scottish Education needs a stand at BETT . On one stand public education agencies and private companies that support learning in Northern Ireland

Surely one of these years SDS , SQA , SFC , Education Scotland and some of the upcoming learner companies in Scotland might get together ( maybe some Colleges)
Nice to be told I was doing a great job selling Scottish Education by my Northern Irish Colleagues as I ran for the airport.

Someone noted that Department for Education had a large stand - but it did not feature on the BETT Event map ! . The largest stand in the arena this year appeared to be that of CAPITA - shows how much money you can make 'delivering' services to the public education sector in UK.

That's it, quick shout out too to Tony Freedman, Charlie Love,  Lee Ballantyne , Malcolm Payton  and many others I met as I flew around the exhibition area to meetings and a wave to the  NoTosh team who were about too

You've got to move fast at BETT

I headed north just before Teachmeet Bett - looked good - but could not hang around longer.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

UNESCO Experience V What it is like back in a Scottish College #oer18

Those of you that know me , know I've wandered around both the practical doing things landscape in  many sectors of education and the more reflective shaping and writing policy landscape too , this mainly around the vocational and assessment areas.

The former in Scotland at least can be easier .

If there is not a big sign saying don't do this then I think that gives anyone permission to innovate and experiment. It is a view that I wish more folks working in education and learning would take.  But , too many wait at the institutional or national policy bus stop before setting off in any direction. I think they are worried about setting off in the wrong direction. I think many are still waiting in some queue to seek permission to innovate.

I'll return to that metaphor.

Policy making sounds good , you can influence policy and that you may actually be able to change things. The  first part can be fun in the planning but often - the planning is killed off at the drafting stage as both other policy makers and the constituencies they serve, can be very cautious, conservative with a small c .  What about the unintended consequences ! Better to do nothing ! is too often the mantra.

'Sorry, we are too busy;  creating frameworks for educational content procurement , dealing with chronic under-funding , the impact of Brexit on education , figuring out what narrowing the attainment gap actually means, creating a new funding formula for , a new model for educational leadership  etc etc...

When you propose !

' Imagine we mandated that schools , colleges , universities and indeed anyone creating learning materials in the public sector were obliged to share these . That could be useful for learners'

You don't get much notice from policy makers,  even direct approaches to successive education ministers don't make much headway, beyond polite and supportive acknowledgements,  though thankfully Open Scotland continues to attract both a grassroots following and a great deal of interest internationally - thanks in a very large part to my co-founder Lorna Campbell and support from ALT.

When  UNESCO,  say that schools , colleges , universities and indeed anyone creating learning materials in the public should be obliged to share these. You get a bit more notice .  But policy for schools , colleges and universities is actually quite dispersed and in Scotland no one has a brief to look after open education - it is even actually quite hard to get anyone to respond to UNESCO officially from within the administration.

The systems that exist are designed to measure output performance and impact of  input measures are rare - in schools teaching and learning is inspected but it is patchy across the system. Open Education is a new area and no-one in government really knows what it means.

That is why #OER18 and the community around it is so important.

Now I am back in a College and following my mantra - I am just going to push things on.

At the moment we have all the usual learning tech tools ; a VLE, a plagiarism checker , a couple of e-portfolio systems , nationally ill defined competencies for staff and learners around digital capacities and lots of conflicting priorities.

Open educational resources are just part of open educational practice and perhaps a much bigger open and closed societal change,  there isn't a stop sign , so I will just push on . The vehicle I am going to use is called Citylearning4.0 I know lots of my network across the UK and Internationally will help us on our journey . I'll leverage the #oer community , ALT , JISC, the Wikimedia Foundation   and many other networks as we make the changes that will help learners across Glasgow and beyond.

And through Open Scotland we'll keep lobbying to get the national policy bus to head in a new open direction and most importantly we will get everyone on board.

If you are a newbee to #OER18 - start learning to be an open practitioner and carry the message back to your institution and to your national policy makers.

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 !