Thursday, April 08, 2021

OERXDomains21 Conference 21-22 April Tune In #openscot #OERXDomains21


Registration is open and conference numbers are growing hour by hour.  Just a reminder to book your place   and a reminder too especially to those in the further education community not used to paying conference fees that
  1. This is great value to get a grip on what you should be doing to open up your own learning materials at institutional and as an individual.
  1. If you struggle to get institutional sponsorship - there are still scholarship places available. 

Yesterday I got a great run through of the open technology that will be used to stream the conference. The conference will be run through Streamyard through to a YouTube Live broadcast for each session with dedicated social spaces provided by Discord 

And fabulous graphics by Bryan Mathers https://remixer.visualthinkery.com/

Looking forward to seeing your press pass !



Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Innovation in Adversity : Discover #OERxDomains21 Online – 21-22 April 2021

thanks to Gabriel Vivas for image under Creative Commons Licence 


I am delighted to be a co-chair of #OERxDomains21 with an inspirational set of co-chairs and an amazing conference committee.

There is still time to get a proposal in and to sign up for the conference.

Theme 1: Openness, care, and joy in the times of pandemic;
Theme 2: Open Education responses to surveillance technologies and data ownership in education;
Theme 3: Open in Action: open teaching, educational practices and resources, how you might be using Domains and other tools;
Theme 4: Shifts in agency and creativity as empowerment of learners and educators;
Theme 5: Open Source Tools: infrastructure, cloud environments, targeted teaching tools.

We've come along way since #OER10 , I've blogged some of my own #OER journey.

My world may be similar to your world - wherever your geographic location.

Teaching staff while juggling their own domestic commitments are finding ways to develop engaging learning experiences . We can see a lot of thought and design going into Moodle courses and higher levels of interactivity through quizzes , forums, and other tools. Staff have been embedding Wakelets , H5P ,Google Sites and in the UK the Blended Learning Consortium content alongside links to open digital materials in the College's library to give students a rich learning experience.

We can see too great use of Zoom , Click-View and YouTube to provide short episodes of learning embedded in courses - while staff are doing crash courses in Microsoft teams used on the admin side of the organisation.

On assessment, staff are developing flexible solutions and making good use of dropbox and Turnitin where these are required - but mainly looking around at more open portfolio approaches to gathering evidence. 

From learners feedback is positive. They understand the challenges we are all facing . They appreciate the richer content , collaborative activities and zoom sessions. They enjoy using social media to support their formal learning and classes now use a variety of tools to stay in touch. They are coping with remote learning along with their own challenges. 

Like any other year the students are looking for more feedback. Some innovative staff are doing this through voice and video recordings as well as through more traditional feedback mechanisms.

One of the biggest challenges is a very human one - how do we get everyone to work with their camera switched on.

On all fronts we are trying to get staff to share and collaborate beyond the institution - in some ways the challenges are the same as 2010 but we have more solutions and staff are more willing to explore these and finally work in the open !

 #OERxDomains21 is a great space to explore what open education could do for you as a teacher and how it can empower your learners. If you are an institutional leader it will steer you to the systems and policy you need to put in place to open up your learning. 

I hope you come along and meet this global community of innovators. 

If ever the world needed more openness it is now !  Tune in 











Wednesday, January 20, 2021

#OERxDomains #OER21 Two messages for Two Audiences

Please Read on - for those who know about Open education this is the place to be and get your proposals in !

Online Conference – 21-22 April 2021 #OERxDomains #OER21

Organised by the Association for Learning Technology and in partnership with Reclaim Hosting’s Domains Conference, this special edition of the much loved event is the 12th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy.

The Call for Proposals is now open https://oer21.oerconf.org/call-for-proposals/ 

ALT Organisational Logo


For those who don't really understand what this is all about.

Forty years ago I left a school which gave me a good but narrow education - but one of the best around at the time. I've not stopped learning. I've been a school teacher , a hack , a community education tutor and College lecturer and held my share of senior posts. I am still a Glaswegian with an incurable social justice complex. I do believe that education can make the world a better place. Too often in my teaching career, the book I chose for the class or the resources available for learning were determined by the finances that the institution had. The learners got great learning - but through the narrow letter box view of the resources that we had available for them.

I don't get get that Scotland has not understood yet what open education practice and policies could do for learners and teachers.

We are currently in the midst of this terrible pandemic and we still haven't figured out that we don't compete on how well we re-package knowledge. Education staff around the world are tying themselves in knots trying to improve their notes , power points , instructional videos, that is not a bad thing. But it would be much more effective for learners and learning if that was a much more collaborative activity. It is more than having a set of course materials that are shared around and within your subject team. (though I do know that in many institutions that remains a triumph in itself). While putting a set of learning materials on to your institutional virtual learning environment may be your act of sharing ,you could be a bit more ambitious for learners everywhere. I don't believe learning materials replace a good teacher - but sharing helps teachers and learners. 

It is not a dark secret the answer is making and sharing your learning materials with an appropriate open educational licence. If you , your institutional leadership team , local authority education team , national education policy makers haven't spotted that this is actually practice encouraged globally by UNESCO , mandated for public education  I am not sure where you have been since 2012. 

In Scotland a good place to start might be considering The Open Scotland Declaration. and why not come along and meet a well informed set of  international set of speakers. 

Sign up and come along to the Online Conference – 21-22 April 2021 #OERxDomains #OER21 

Full disclosure I am co-chair of  the ALT Scottish Sig and a Co-Chair of this conference - but none of this is fake news ;-) 





Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Vision and a Happy New Year !


What a year of loss and struggle for so many people. The impact on the economy and on people’s lives won’t really be clear until the end of next year. I know how fortunate we have been in the roles we are in, in that we enjoy a degree of job security and we have been able to help others.

Professionally it’s been great to see staff and learners rising to the challenge of new ways of learning. I work with a great team who have been working flat out.

It’s been great too to see how our two school age children have adapted to online learning and monthly changes in the schooling system - they both miss sport most of all and socialising out of school, but generally their enthusiasm for learning has not suffered. Blended learning really does work.

Personally, it’s been very long hours and dealing too with navigating family illness and the stresses and strains of the new enforced domestic arrangements. We’re so lucky to have a garden and a dog and this space and companionship have kept us all sane. The scottish weather was kind too when we made our great summer escape to Lewis and that made all the difference to recharging our batteries.

Along the way I lost a couple of good pals,  in normal circumstances I’d have been present at the celebration of their lives. Watching remembrance services remotely , Zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups just don’t cut it.

I sometimes make predictions for the year ahead - I don’t think I could ever have predicted a year like this.

I hope things get back to a new normal where online learning is embedded in how everyone learns. I hope too we see a new system of national assessment in Scottish schools. We need some better national leadership around this. There is a lot of good learning that could come out of this pandemic. I am ever hopeful. 

As the economy changes - I expect to be busier than ever , we have ambitious plans for the year ahead and the demand for digital learning and associated skills are not going to diminish.  My inbox is perpetually full with requests for support. 

May the New Year bring you and yours good health, happiness, prosperity and a timely dose of Covid Vaccine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Beyond Multiple Choice #BMC2020

Logo Beyond Multiple Choice

I am doing a bit of tidying up and catching up on some posts that should have appeared earlier in the year.  What a strange yet busy time it has been.  In early November I was asked to contribute to this global conference on assessment. You can find my modest contribution from a College perspective in day three of the proceedings. 

Beyond Multiple Choice #BMC2020   ( worth clicking on timestamp below videos to see running schedule) 

It was a really interesting conference given the world's reaction to CoVid - suddenly on-line testing came into its own - in ways that may surprise you - if you watch one session have a look at final session of the day about how the national testing system in Scotland is operating and the political pressures around this.  It's all about putting the learner at the centre. 

My slides below - if you have an interest in following this global community you can join the linkedIn Group. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

An Experienced Reflection on National Awarding


I worked for the SQA for most of the current century - and every year congratulations are due to all learners and this year, in that respect, it is no different. 

I'm glad I am on a beach in the Outer Hebrides this week.  Working for the SQA is a thankless task and colleagues will be working hard as ever to deliver. 

We need to step back from the hysteria.

These are exceptional times. This is the first time since the 1880's that the national exam diet has been cancelled. This has put a strain on everyone; learners , teachers , administrators and politicians. In times like this tough decisions need to be made and justified.  A decision was made today to uphold the estimates made by teachers. 

This I think exposes some deep fault lines in our system. Teachers have systematically over estimated pupils eventual results for years. The external exams being the method of arbitration. Without the exam this issue is thrown into sharp focus. 

I think the appeals system that was ready to go into operation would have supported the deserving cases. But we will never know. The noise about education being a postcode lottery isn’t just noise - but the appeals system would have adjusted these. 

What is the issue .

Many teachers are not particularly good at designing prelims , and or are unsure about standards. The evidence is pretty well known to those who have worked  in and around the system.  There is often a big gap between learners actual grades and those predicted by their teachers.  Appeals are often made based on invalid evidence, commonly cobbled together prelims based on items from past papers - when this was admissible evidence.  

The system has not done enough over a lot of years to make sure that teachers can make better estimates. Perhaps given the parental and institutional pressure that teachers are under, along with different learner performance between prelim and final - it is too hard a task. SQA has done its bit around Understanding Standards.

SQA has data on the reliability of estimates at school level and I am certain that SQA's initial response was based on sound evidence. In this, and ultimately the change of tack, they follow the instructions from the government.  SQA staff and the 15,000 appointees  ( who are mainly serving teachers ) do their utmost to make the system fair for all. 

Some observations - 

A decision has been made that will be very popular with learners and teachers , it looks as though it has almost cross party support. The government was never going to have an easy decision on this. 

Should the system now accept that teachers make these national assessment decisions ? ( I think  the view is that this is perhaps a one off ( I'd like to see more robust decision making moved here )  . No one, least of all the learners were prepared for what has been an incredible year, an upward drift of 14% across the board, does create a credibility problem , but who knows perhaps lots of learning was happening in lock down and schools and local authorities had to put in long hours creating their orders of merit.  Neatly too it creates a cohort of learners for Higher Education when overseas numbers are down.  Perhaps it just highlights that exams  are not really about quality control just quantity management for the tertiary sector.  It probably mirrors what is happening in the Higher Education sector - where grade inflation is much more of a reality - and when the  dust settles it will have ballooned this year. Please press, don't roll out the usual elite moaners and fixers from Higher Education about the school and college system - they have zero credibility on standards. 

What is clear and to restore learners faith in the system is that learners need a better means of evaluating their performance against national standards. The wide variances between school estimates and the original awards need tackled. It is an opportunity to revisit the whole exam system - roll on ,  roll off digital assessment for all is within reach along with digital portfolios of evidence.  Local Authorities , Education Scotland and the GTCS should take a much closer interest in teacher decision making. It is only recently that the GTCS started recognising teacher engagement in national assessment work as a critical part of CPD and often it is the schools with fewer SQA appointees that have the most divergent estimates.  Perhaps a starting point could be a comparison of previous years performance based on exams and this year's based on estimates. What was this year’s secret sauce ? 

The credibility of the national assessment system, whatever its future shape, is everyone's responsibility and it is ill served by political slagging matches and press hysteria.  I think we are still  not in a place where we can say the academic year ahead is without more uncertainties. 

In the meantime , I wonder how the more market driven education system of England will cope with a similar crisis, A stars all round I wouldn't wonder.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Active Summer with Fresh Challenges Ahead.

How do you measure what has been a challenging time for all ? 

It's not been the end of the world ( translation of my French surf shirt ).  My lock down beard 
(recorded in zoom and teams meetings)  has now gone and we are getting ready for the new session. Here are some links that reflect our work over the summer and our preparations for the new session. It is not the end , nor the beginning of the end of blended learning , it is just the start of a very different and much more learner centred form of education. 


We are ready with a new online standard for all,  and much more summarised on the LTA Blog Site . This is a summary of some great work across the Learning and Teaching Academy team , it has been a real team effort.  

I wrote a paper in April/May about the landscape we are all in,  and I've been fortunate to get pieces in the May Edition of Teaching Scotland.  I've linked my  CoVid posts for posterity

What is certain is that we are planning well - what is less certain are the challenges that lie ahead.