Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Digital Literacy, A New Essential Skill ; Food for Thought from Welsh Experience

Digital Literacy the Welsh Experience
A Think Piece
In Wales, based on recommendations from E-Skills the then Sector Skills Council and Jisc work (including a review of all the digital competencies frameworks globally) , and on advice of Graham Donaldson in his Report to the Welsh Government , a new essential skills framework has been developed to support work based and lifelong learning.
This fits with the requirement for Trail Blazers in England to consider the embedding of digital skills in the new apprenticeship frameworks.
You'll probably know the name Essential Skills in Northern Ireland, but in England you'll likely recognise them as 'Functional Skills', or 'Core Skills' in Scotland. In Scotland things have become particularly confused with Skills for Learning Life and Work being pushed in Schools , Essential Skills in Colleges,  while in apprenticeship frameworks Core Skills is still the brand that is used for the underpinning generic skill set. Though the superset in Schools and College are related to the core skills framework.

There is probably a separate blog post needed in figuring out why this drift apart has happened in Scotland and what should be done to fix this. I hope some thinking hats are going on - digital literacy is a sensible broadening of the narrower core skill of IT.
The Welsh government realised that IT alone was not going to equip learners to gain the dynamic digital skills they would need to support them in adapting with evolving digital technologies at home and in the workplace.

The decision was taken that from September 2015 digital literacy would replace IT as an essential skill along with employability skills, communication and application of number. Essential Skills is a compulsory element for anyone studying towards an apprenticeship or foundation learning programme in Wales.

Based around digital capabilities https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/building-digital-capability
The Welsh government has created a new framework of learner qualifications that incorporates all the key aspects of digital literacy models. It offers six themes across six levels, from Entry 1 to Level 3, including:
  • Digital responsibility
  • Digital information literacy
  • Digital productivity
  • Digital collaboration
  • Digital creativity
  • Digital learning
You can see the framework and the suggested models of learning and assessment in the context of the whole new Essential Skills Framework here http://qualificationswales.org/media/1371/qwrd1088-final_-_esw_suite_design_principles_-_june_2015_pdf2.pdf
I will focus only on the Digital Literacy components here.
The components can easily be adapted to a checklist, a think list approach for Trailblazers in the development of their new standards.  
For  awarding and accreditation bodies across the UK many of whom have not yet looked at digital literacies as a core component of their skills offering this is a useful place to start thinking about how digital literacies should be embedded in learning and in the workplace to improve both the learner’s skill base and workplace productivity.
If you were a Trail Blazer or regulator thinking about digital literacy and skills this would be a good place to start.
Digital Responsibility
Be able to access a range of digital devices  
Know how to stay safe in a digital world and demonstrate how to interact safely in the digital world
Be able to access and use transaction based on-line services
Know what is meant by a digital footprint and know the protocols for you as an individual and within an organisation in its maintenance and demonstrate maintenance of a digital footprint.
Be able to work safely and securely in a range of digital environments
Be able to apply a range of protocols for digital responsibility and digital security in a wide range of digital communities and environments
Digital Information Literacy
Be able to select, identify and verify the source of digital information
Understand how to critically analyse and the review techniques to gather digital information
Be able to retrieve and use digital information to complete a task or solve a problem
Be able to evaluate and use digital information to complete complex tasks or solve complex problems.
Digital Productivity
Be able to open a file and use a range of input devices
Be able to present information in a digital format
Be able to open and respond appropriately to personal and business  messages
Be able to identify, maintain, resolve common digital issues   and use basic hardware.
Be able to organise, store, share, permission and protect digital information
Digital Collaboration
Be able to select and use appropriate digital tools to collaborate with others
Be able to plan, organise and apply effective and efficient collaborative working practices
Understand and demonstrate how collaboration can enhance personal professional and organisational practice
Digital Creativity
Be able to create, edit and enhance a digital resource including multimedia resources.
Be able to use a wide range of digital creative tools and techniques to complete a complex task.
Understand how to critically review, analyse and evaluate creative digital solutions.
Understand how a digital creative solution has the potential to develop opportunities for entrepreneurship and enterprise.
Digital Learning
Understand how digital technologies, tools and techniques enhance and extend learning opportunities.

Friday, May 20, 2016

#Jisc E-Assessment Survey

This report is worth a look at , if only to reflect on the depressingly slow pace of e-assessment across the public education system in the UK .  I think when I was involved in setting up the UK E-Assessment Association in the early noughties we hoped things would move much faster.

What are the challenges

I know I am lumping schools , colleges , universities and some work-based learning all together here and that some systems particularly in workplace are going a lot faster !

1. It is hard to get system and teachers to move away from pencil and paper even for high stakes summative assessment and even where there is a strong evidence base that on-line makes the assessments both more accessible and more cost effective.  Education leaders are afraid of making decision and changing procedures too. There still appears to be a big digital literacy deficit among teachers and educational leaders.

2. Centres are still not geared up for e-assessment . Even though much of this can now be done across wifi and even on candidates own devices .  You don't always need to invest in a bespoke on-line test centre.

3. The awarding bodies - either have their own bespoke systems or are too tied in to systems and processes that require paper.  Much of the e-enablement has focused on embedding the current system. Scanning of candidates scripts for electronic marking rather than any attempt to move the whole assessment and verification systems on-line. Any candidate evidence should be on-line and remotely accessible by now . That includes evidence at centre level internal validation should be through images of candidates work.

4. An unwillingness to open up the question banks that do exist . There should be rafts of on-line apps and systems that allow learners lots of ways to develop their skills through formative assessments on-line,  based on items from the awarding bodies past papers. I am still looking for a free platform that can do maths , numeracy , digital literacy , communications - call it what you will core skills , functional skills , essential skills-  diagnostic testing .  Staff should not have to create lots of assessment instruments and items they should be available for  re-purposing.

5. A lack of flexibility and a belief that exam halls are always the answer.  In terms of assessment in the round there is a push back to high stakes testing and away from e-portfolios and continuous assessment - which is in my opinion pedagogically unsound . This a feature principally in English system.

Over the last 14 years the system has had lots of advice but still learners are more likely to encounter an on-line assessment in situations out with formal education than through an educational establishment. Even at level of institutions preparing learners for the real world , this is wrong.

If folks looked at some of the platforms that are already available and open https://open.edx.org/  for example they would see that there are already very reliable ways to automatically mark even short answer questions. I've raised this example before . I think in Scotland we need someone to make an instance of this available on an open basis to support adoption of on-line learning and assessment across life long learning and out in to our communities.

Monday, May 16, 2016

#dlw16 Digital Learning Week Homework

Education Scotland Digital Learning Week Logo 

Thought I'd assign some homework for schools in Digital Learning Week 

This principally aimed at senior phase. 

In no particular order. 

1. How good is your school wifi and are you ready for learners to bring their own devices ?

2. Have you got a clear policy that encourages learners and teachers  to use their own devices in class and around the school  ?

3. Have you worked out how to close the digital divide - can you supply learners,  who don't have access to a device that can reliably at least browse the internet with a suitable device - ideally for school time and to take home ? hint -  Kindle Fires are good value at moment.

4. How confident are your teachers in making the best use of GLOW - blogging , sharing , publishing their learning and teaching resources, working collaboratively with learners to create content with teacher and learners in other schools across Scotland and internationally ?

5. Have you worked out a policy or mechanism for making the best use of massive open on-line courses for staff and for pupil development ?

6. How much learning content created under Creative Commons Licences do your teachers and pupils produce each year and what platforms are you publishing this on ?

7. How good is your learning community at defining and describing your local area - do you use Google and other maps and suitable review sites as opportunities for teachers and learners to produce content.

8. Have you trained any Wikipedians - what are the Wikipedia entries like for your school and for the region that surrounds your school ?  How can you improve these ?

9. Digital literacy - have you a mechanism for measuring this across your learning community and a means of developing this for teachers and learners on an ongoing basis ?

10. Do you use technology to give learners an opportunity to showcase their work - and do you use it to cut down on meetings and use it for useful things like internal verification, across your school , across the local authority , nationally ?

11. How many on-line courses are your learners using as a supplement to or as an addition to normal classes and are you timetabling these to increase the choice available to senior phase learners and to make non-viable subject choices viable in your school ?

12. E-Books - have you worked out that many of the classic texts are now freely available as they are out of copyright and have you a strategy for making sure teachers and learners make the most of resources like this ?

13. Do most subject teachers have their own YouTube channel with a stream of helpful revision clips from a range of sources to support learners and/or what social platforms are they doing this on ?

14. Have you opened up a lot of your on-line learning to help and support parents - who would benefit from access to this learning ?

15. How many Microsoft Innovator Teachers , Google Certified , Apple or Intel or other trained teachers do you have and do you value your digital leaders ?

16. Do you know what an open badge is and have you worked out ways for your teachers and learners to build some open badges and award these ?

17. Has your school organised or supported a teachmeet ? Do you encourage teachers to contribute to #Pedagoo - do you regularly talk about how digital learning is changing the face of learning - talking about the pedagogy and the on-line resources freely available ?

18. If you think digital learning is still about - composing and sending emails , opening , creating and saving a document and using presentation software , a data projector or an electronic whiteboard and that phones are a needless distraction in school.  Then please ignore  1-17

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Festival of Computing #RUFestofComp16

I was asked to give  a shameless plug 

It is a great idea - I spoke to organiser, the  event inspires staff to tune in and change their own practice at institution and supports teachers, academics and students. 

Roehampton is a pretty unique venue and they have a superb line up of interesting speakers and sessions- 

Message follows - 

I would appreciate if you could spread the word about our Festival 

of Computing. We have talks and workshops for primary and

 secondary school teachers; school leaders and academics. Great 

event for networking and to share ideas. 

Tickets cost £60 for an 

adult and £40 for a student.

Hash Tag :
Ticket store: 




Thanks to @selm4s for image

Provocation SELMAS  

I was asked to provoke a gathering of around 140 School leaders from Scotland. I thought I would share my points here and add some web-links.  There wasn’t a fight.

If you are given the opportunity and privilege to talk at a SELMAS event grab it with both hands. I was humbled by the aspiration and experiences of the other speakers and by the commitment of all the education leaders present to improving the life chances of Scotland's young people. 

Thanks to all at SELMAS for the kind invitation.

Provocation - 

I wonder how hard it is to provoke school leaders
If I said that for almost half of my  30 year career I left the classroom and  I worked for SQA and that I’ve worked with HMIE, Education Scotland and SFC, the Scottish Funding Council and many of the agencies that work around schools.

– that is often provocation enough in the kitchen of a party with any teachers present.

But the truth is and like me – many of the staff who work in these organisations come from the classroom – and you can change them and get involved with them. The choice to engage and make changes for the better is yours. 

But I appreciate how busy landscape is. 

For school leaders it is often about squeezing in another change on top of changes that are already in train
Wider Achievement
Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce
Closing the Attainment Gap
Getting it Right for Every Child
The named person scheme
The next school inspection
While managing all the challenges of running a complex organisation with competing demands – and being a role model at the same time.

Currently in the  senior phase of CfE you are getting heads around new national qualifications at SCQF 4 and 5 and looking at a re-aligned curriculum in Highers and Advanced Highers,  while taking a look at the ways schools can work more closely with industry on one hand and with the wider community on the other.

There is always a raft of policy changes and never enough people or re-sources to get everything moving forward – but it is achieved – and thanks to the dedication of you as leaders and your teams.

And we are in a much better place that we were 30 years ago.

Let’s reflect …

I taught in schools in and around Glasgow, in many there was a larger cohort of non-certificated classes finishing their school career in 4th year than there were classes preparing for their O’grades .

In 1986 the system had decided that it was ok to allow large cohorts of learners to leave school with no certification and with precious little engagement.  As a trainee English and History teacher  I was asked to show them videos but not to try and teach them English as they would rebel.

On another occasion, in another school armed with lots of inspiring ideas – I was advised to lower my expectations of learners -  as they were from around here .  The Head of Department hadn’t picked up I was from around the same area and this led to an interesting conversation. 

Expectations were too low at all levels in the system. 

There was never a golden age. There is now and the future. 
We are in a better place and we can make it better still for learners. 

I met the same learners in the local college, now on first name terms and doing courses they were interested in – they performed and were model learners and citizens.
Schools are more like this now or should be.

Often too in those darker days I was more concerned about bullying in the staff room than bullying in the playground. I think we have more professional respect for our peers now and we make decisions based on evidence. Not on who is shouting the loudest.

Things have moved on – expectations at all levels are now in a different place and learners have responded– though the challenges of poverty and in some cases chaotic lifestyles remain in many of our communities and the chasm in achievement among learners from different social economic groups – remains Scotland’s shame.

But the bill of fare in our schools should now be much more appropriate for all of our learners

Now, there should be appropriate choices for all learners and not just more of the same academic fare.

In Colleges we spend a lot of time listening to what learners want and measuring not just their achievements but their satisfaction with the choice available to them and the standard and quality of their learning experience. Do schools really listen to the learners voice ?  And do you adjust your provision in response to this ?

I want to talk about widening achievement – with my YouthlinkScotland hat on
How many school are really using – Saltire Awards , John Muir Awards , SQA Leadership Awards , Duke of Edinburgh Awards  and all the other options that are available across the School

With less funding it will be that route where young people get their first international experience , their first experience of planning an expedition or community project, out with formal education, their first position of responsibility. There are still different sources of funding in the community for these activities and youth groups work hard at raising funds to be inclusive. 

How tuned in is your school to the amazing opportunities , commitments and achievements  young people have through  youth work,  volunteering out with normal school and do you give it adequate recognition ?

Scout story – My volunteers were told – school does offer awards there – but these are only for the thick kids. Their words and perception rather than what they were probably told. But message was clear school still not really valuing wider achievement.

How hard is it for a community group to get notices up inside a school ?  
How aware is the school of opportunities for learners in the immediate community ?

If schools are to be judged as part of a community learning experience how good are you at reaching out and how far are you confident in letting the community reach in to your school ?

If you or someone in the community is doing something good and innovative how aware are you that it can be SCQF credit and levelled and put on Insight Tool and given formal recognition.

I want to talk too about school and employer links :
Things are moving on at pace – Skills for Work programmes give learners an important taste of an occupational area, there are new standards for work experience and many learners embark on Employability awards ( shouldn’t all school leavers do this ?)

School College partnerships should be seen as more than a convenient place to park learners who for one reason or another are not coping with school

A College is a really useful gateway to develop relationships with multiple employers – How good is your relationship with your local College? I couldn't make the whole talk an advert for how College changes peoples lives and plays a major part in closing the inclusion and attainment gap. - but they do. 

Have your teaching staff spent any time in your local College.

It would be a great venue for the next in-service day !

There are new and more complex offerings on the horizon -
Foundation Apprenticeships in 6 key industries are currently rolling out – funded by Skills Development Scotland.
  • Children and Young People
  • Construction
  • Engineering (energy)
  • Engineering
  • Financial Services
  • Social Services and Healthcare
  • Business
  • Software Development
  • Hardware and System Support

These are very different programmes at SCQF 6 – same as higher as exit point . My concern is that this may be too high and that you will struggle to persuade your peers that learners would be better doing this programme,  rather than re-sitting your normal academic fare. These are 2 year programmes – aimed to fit in alongside other school classes – that lead directly into work or can be used as a bridge to College or Higher Education.

Aimed too at a different cohort – the learners who may already be on their way to College or may just get the qualifications they need to get into University. The message has to be clear – as it stands this is not a programme for those you may have traditionally sent along to the College.  

This is for  learners who you might have traditionally offered another academic course or encouraged them to re-sit something in 5th and 6th year .

Foundation Apprenticeships – open up new opportunities delivered in College with an extended workplace component in many cases they cover the main elements of a full apprenticeship.

Schools too can offer too PDA awards that link to industry competencies and in some parts of Scotland schools are now offering HNC qualifications.  Have you a rich and varied enough offering across your local authority for senior phase learners and are you making enough of learning technology to deliver these. Rather than busing or taxiing everyone around at great expense.

I could speak at length on how the learners in the know are now accessing massive open on-line courses and open educational re-sources. Schools still have some way to go to both embed the on-line offerings that are already available or to make similar on-line offerings available.

I am still amazed that there is not a national offering in the Higher Computing space that is largely delivered on-line . It would in one step make computing available to many schools where there is no computing teacher and be a cost effective national solution. For minority languages too or indeed anything that learners could cope with on-line when you can't create a viable class size in your own institution. 

Striking too that the global teacher of the year from England – is a maths teacher – simply up-loading useful lessons on to YouTube as revision aids for his learners – the world started using this re-source – we need more of this ambition in Scottish classrooms.

Are you encouraging your teachers to be content creators and to publish their learning materials openly on the internet with an appropriate creative commons licence ? If this is all in a different language. Find out about Open Scotland and Creative Commons licensing. Every teacher should be an open practitioner.

I asked my first year daughter what one piece of advice I could give you and unprompted ‘ it was find a way to let us use the internet in class – I know everyone does not have phones and the teachers don’t want to embarrass anyone  – but we are allowed to use the school wifi when not in class  – but hardly ever in class. Why doesn’t the school find a way to give everyone a browser’  
Me : A kindle fire is about £49 , a tablet – we need to stop teaching a letter box view of the world and give learners tools to explore the world of knowledge.
How are you closing the growing digital divide – ignoring it is not the answer .
The attainment gap will just grow wider ! and Scotland’s shame grow deeper.

But more change is on the way -

There is a seismic change coming from Whitehall – the industry training levy will impact on every employer with more than a £3million pound pay bill – that includes public sector employers like local authorities and even Colleges . From April 2017 they will pay a 0.5% annual levy effectively a tax.
I’ll say this again – as it seems very surprising.

The UK Government is raising taxes to pay for an improved investment in learning.

Raising Taxes to pay for education !

I'll say that again as it seems in current times a strange concept - the Westminster Government is raising taxes to pay for training from the largest employers to re-distribute to smaller employers to pay for more employee training. 

This will raise 3 Billion pounds across the UK and will in England fundamentally change the relationship that employers have with work based training.

Employers will have training accounts and will get money back based on the training they give their staff .  Small employers will make a contribution and get more back from the pot than they put in. Employers will choose who they contract with to provide the training

Large and small employers will want to either get their money back or in the case of small employers tap in to this funding resource.

The CBI in Scotland finally raised this challenge in today's Herald and I expect new administration will start responding -

I expect next year will be the year when employers start beating on the doors of schools and colleges for learners that are ready to start an apprenticeship so they can benefit from payments from the training levy.

I hope rather than to have provoked you I have given you some some food for thought ! and you don’t get indigestion. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Training Levy in England

I'm doing a bit of work in the English market at moment - but the Training Levy will impact across the UK - so I thought it was worth sharing this report on how policies are shaping around  how employers access their training accounts in England.

CBI  noticed in yesterday's Herald that it will have an impact on Scotland
Report on Webinar hosted by FE On-line Nick Linford interviewing Keith Smith BIS on Operation of Levy

Keith has moved across from the Skills Funding Agency to BIS to mastermind this large scale transformation in the revenue raising and funding model for apprenticeships.

On 6th of April 2017 the new levy system will come into being and all UK employers with a pay bill of more than £3million PA will be required to pay a 0,5% levy. The collection will be through a monthly payment ( for organisations with seasonal employees there will be in-year adjustments) .  The system will be a standard one and will impact all employers across the public and private sectors that are on or above the £3 million pound threshold.

Yes, this includes Colleges, Local Authorities , Health Boards and any large public sector employer.

While I am aware that there will be a displacement effect - less public money going directly from the exchequer in to training. This is an interesting policy direction for the current UK government. In effect this is a tax on large employers to pay for training with a redistribution to the smaller employers,  who while making a contribution will benefit from access to this pot of money.  It should make employers more engaged in the standards and quality of training subsidised by the public purse and hopefully play a significant part in closing the productivity gap that exists across the UK.

The treasury expects to raise £3 billion pounds per annum through this levy and around £2.5 billion will be available for training in England.  The remainder will be available in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland ,  who will have their own mechanisms for disbursement. However , the changed collection model  is likely to have a  net  impact on the budgets of Wales , Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But there will be a series of additional publications between now and the end of the year to provide additional guidance and clarification.

What next?

June 2016
In June 2016 there will be information about:
• provisional funding bands, which will set the maximum amount of
funding which is available for each apprenticeship from April 2017
• the provisional level of the government support that will be available
towards the cost of apprenticeship training if you aren’t a levy paying
employer, from April 2017
• the provisional level of the extra payment you can get for hiring 16 to
18 year old apprentices, from April 2017
• the provisional amount that will be paid for English and maths
training for apprentices who need it, from April 2017
• eligibility rules that set who you are able to spend apprenticeship
funding on and where
• more information on who can provide apprenticeship training and how
you can set up your organisation to deliver apprenticeship training

October 2016
In October 2016 there will be information about:
• the final levels of funding, government support, 16 to 18 payments,
and English and maths payments for apprentices starting from April
2017 full
• draft funding and eligibility rules

December 2016
In December 2016 there will be information about:
• final detailed funding and eligibility rules
• further employer guidance from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on
how to calculate and pay the apprenticeship levy 

Large and small employers will have access to a digital account and be able to commission training activity from this account . They will only be able to commission training from providers on an approved list.  ( this in England )

This  approved list  of training organisation will be known as the  register of apprenticeship training providers .  The aim of this new list is to make it simpler for employers to find and contract directly with training providers and to drive out unnecessary sub-contracts from the system. There will be new contractual terms and conditions for entry on to the approved list - these terms and conditions  will appear in June and the register will open this summer.

From January 2017 Employers will be able to open negotiations with the suppliers on the list in preparation for system coming into operation in April 2017

Between 850-950 providers support apprenticeship delivery at moment - it is likely that number may stay around the same but that more employers will become training providers and come on to the new list.  So there is an anticipation that some training providers will step back from apprenticeship delivery

Employers who come onto list will be inspected by Ofstead as will all providers delivering up to QCF Level 3

ROTO will remain in place for other training activities https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-training-organisatio…

The model will still be one of co-investment for small non contributing employers they will make a contribution to their account and in return they will be able to access additional funds .  The current pilot model is that for every £1 a company invests in their training account they will be able to access £2 in return.  A cap will be in place for each framework  - the only additional payments that will remain in place are the £471 funding for both the English and Maths components.

The current pilot includes incentive payments for smaller employers , for taking on 16-18 year olds and there is a completion payment.  There is no commitment currently on incentive payments and there is still a broad discussion underway around the phasing of payments back to employers . The current system created a huge number of transactions and the hope is that a more simplified system can be put in place .  Details of this will appear in new Employer and Providers Guides that are scheduled for publication in June

From June a lot of work will start with employers so they understand how their training accounts will operate .

The Government in confident that system will be in place and be operational for April start.