Thursday, December 31, 2020
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
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
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
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Monday, June 01, 2020
( with thanks to Tom Duff)
- On day college closed we had advice in place for teaching , support and students on working remotely.
- We moved all support on line - our inbox every day has now dealt with around 1500 support requests ( at 27/5)
- We immediately rolled out Zoom as a practical delivery tool for teachers and provided associated support.
- We’ve run 2 webinars a day covering critical systems and support – with more than 950 staff attending sessions . Through online booking platform and we've had great feedback.
- Our offer has tracked staff demand – initially focusing on communication tools , now focusing on assessment and evidence gathering tools and we will focus on learning design to make courses more digital and blended for start of next session. ( we are using our own version of ABC Learning Design.
- We have continued both to support a number of commercial projects like https://www.offsiteready.com/ and have won more commercial funding during lock down – and we are still bidding for new business. ( we are just about to roll out a UFI Project - watch this space)
- We documented our approach and it has been picked up as good practice and will feature in a future GTCS Magazine.
- From 17 March we have offered a digital first library service with advice, support, guidance and access to resources for students and staff.
- We have designed, developed and launched the Learning and Teaching Academy online presence. Re-branded existing pages and building whole new libguide platform and creating a wordpress site and created a suite of short instructional videos and guides for staff working remotely.
- Our team has offered an online landscape to enable and support teaching teams to deliver online. With daily learning opportunities such as webinars to online learning courses that encourage and exploit digital technologies such as Teams, Zooms and many educational technologies and software.
- The LTA has successfully created a team ethic that is centred on supporting academic development and enhancing teaching and learning within City and beyond.
- We just managed to squeeze out a Jisc Digital Insights Student survey - which I know will give us some valuable data on how learners are coping in lockdown.
- We are now well positioned to start the real work of transforming delivery at City of Glasgow College in a new working landscape.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
The #OER conference always has great speakers and explores a broad range of open educational practice from around the globe. In some ways with us all sitting isolating in different parts of the world and beaming into home offices , kitchens in my case , it seemed to emphasise the global nature of open educational thinking and practices.
I'm guessing we were all balancing our institutional commitments. I've reflected these in some earlier posts and workload and on-line meetings did get in the way of some of the sessions I would have liked to tune in to.
The on-line conference grew from it's usual physical size of around 400 delegates to 1300 delegates , the social hangouts and back channels allowed some of the networking and chatting that is a critical component of the learning that comes from a conferences, though I have to say I missed the mingling and meeting old friends and new.
It was topical and on the ball and even managed to have its own Blackboard Collaborate Bombing - it's not just Zoom, it can happen on any platform folks.
I've embedded the conference playlist here ..
You can sneak a peak and many of the attendees who completed a splot and played social bingo.
As Lorna Campbell succinctly highlights
Please note, the OER20 conference wasn’t just free as in speech, it was also free as in beer, so if you participated in the event, either listening in to the presentations, or even just following the hashtag online, please consider making a donation to the conference fund. Every little helps to support ALT and cover the cost.
Our own session went well ... without rehearsal we summed up what we have achieved through a collaborative partnership around a shared G-Suite for Education - and the travails of getting staff to work in the open. You can find a recording of session and be your own judge. The site is in transition to NMIS and Strathclyde University and is currently not sitting on it's usual domain - the resources are open and reflects well on what was a real team effort and a development that I think breaks the mould in Scottish education at least.
I look forward to shaping it with the ALT team and my co-chairs.
In meantime I have three days off - I mooted this with rest of family, I am going on a camping trip into my suburban back garden. Initially, they thought I had finally cracked , but I think they maybe joining me. Now is the time to think differently folks.
Thursday, April 02, 2020
So update we ran 10 webinars last week and over 250 staff tuned in .Between the learning tech and library team we dealt with over 1000 inquires through help desks and social media. We now have around 700 staff across teaching and support with an active zoom account and we look good to go.
I wonder what other colleges and universities could open up for to colleagues across public sector - we are now living in a remote working, on-line world.
Our own programme is expanding, having covered key communication channels, we are adding ClickView Training and for some Microsoft Teams training and we’ve added an online booking system - to make sign up easier.
And we are planning on building around a community of practice https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/teach-online while promoting the bridge initiative from CDN and jisc . Tomorrow we are creating a What's On Page to capture more of the on-line events and training that are available to the College staff across the UK and beyond.
And I delivered a paper on how we harnessed google sites to deliver a national programme at #oer20 on Wednesday - Blackboard Collaborate this time globally 1200 delegates making this biggest #OER conference yet . Special thanks to my co-presenter Dr Lewis Ross and in the background Dr Julian Hopkins , John Casey and colleagues who supported delivery of this project including Jim Hannigan at SDS . They included a nice platform for delegates to introduce themselves https://oer20.socialbingo.oerconf.org/participants/joe-wilson/
I borrowed the meme from Clint Lalonde .
I'll post later on fabulous online #oer20 experience and some exciting news.
In meantime this is what's making us laugh this week.
Monday, March 23, 2020
|Sunday on a remote beach near Glasgow - self isolating|
At City of Glasgow College, this is what we’ve been busy doing.
Our priority has been working on improving communication between lecturers and their students. It has been a real team effort from shaping the offer to communicating across the College.
- We’ve prepared and published guides for teaching staff , support staff and students around all the systems we have in place for remote learning.
- We’ve changed the way we can be contacted and how we deliver our support services for those who run into technical challenges or simply need some online support.
This week we are rolling out a webinar programme. Two sessions a day, 10-11am and 2-3pm. A cycle of :
- Reminding staff by running webinars on how to use enquirer, our MIS system, to send emails and sms messages to class groups and individual students.
- Showing staff who haven’t been using forums inside their Moodle courses. How to set one up and how to make use of it to engage with learners.
- All sessions delivered by Zoom with additional training for staff on how to use Zoom with their students. We anticipate Zoom is our new face to face.
Support staff :: Lecturing staff :: Students :: Staff Help guides and videos
Learning Technologies Help
Friday, March 06, 2020
Why not pop in to hear latest from what is the largest vocational learning content sharing collaborative across the UK.
Over the next few months many more of us will be polishing up our webinar skills. Here is a guide we are using across this large College, aimed at teaching staff.
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Thursday, January 09, 2020
Here we go again .
I am heading down to #BETT20 early on the Wednesday morning for some pre-meetings and then the usual busy schedule in and around the conference.
I'm expecting to catch up with Google , Microsoft , Fujitsu , Click-View among many others.
I'll be around until Friday afternoon.
I can't claim to have been every #BETT but I've attended since last century Reflections over last few years here and some guides for #BETT newbies.
My diary is pretty full, but if you have something unique and engaging aimed at any part of the assessment , e-portfolio space, digital skills for vocational teaching staff landscape or you have some genuinely open learning or you are looking for meaningful partnerships with a school , college or vocational learning space either in Scotland or internationally, then I would be interested in talking to you.
The College I am working in currently offers a great space to launch new ideas and systems in to the Scottish vocational sector and has a strong international reach.
You can find out more about me through my linkedin profile or just do a google for 'Joe Wilson and UK Colleges, or open education.