Thursday, November 22, 2007

Scottish History

"The announcement that SQA is at long last prepared to introduce a compulsory Scottish element to the Higher history examination is welcome, if overdue..."

Will open up a fresh set of challenges. As a one time History and English Teacher who taught Scottish History and Scottish Literature I was aware that many of my colleagues did not include these options -but will compulsion make the teaching and learning of Scottish History better ?

I hope so ..
and why was this learning not happening anyway and from early on in the system ?
The Romans and The Dinosaurs - as I remember from my primary education in the last century and maybe 1066 and the Gunpowder Plot with no mention of James the Sixth being Scottish.

We were told at one point that the Scottish People wore kilts because they were poor which is part of an answer but it was left unqualified and as an answer it never squared with the world I knew where a kilt was a very very prized possession in more ways than money.

You'd think I was a nationalist rather than an internationalist

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Partners in Learning and Internet Safety

Good to see some coverage of Microsoft Schools for the Future Conference in Helsinki in today's Herald Walter's piece links well to work we have done around internet safety and great too to see that we brought Emma Griffiths and East Lothian's excellent Extreme Learning on to a global stage. I know too that there has been lots of excellent work happening with parents and learners with Ollie Bray leading the charge. Would be good to see a piece that joined all the good work up.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Computing Crisis

Westminster E- Forum Keynote Seminar
Is there a UK IT Skills Gap – Some headlines

I summarise not all but some of what was said today at the Westminster E-Forum
The main panic in the system is the declining numbers of school pupils and students picking computing as a subject to study at A Level or University. There are been dip in Scotland too and the future of computing in schools was the subject of a recent successful conference in Scotland. Well summarised here

Shots fired at computing being boring in schools and also professional pathways and working conditions in the IT industry that turn off graduates and especially women.
The main industry challenge identified were in up-skilling those in work especially managers to get organisations making more productive use of IT and for the us collectively make a careers in IT more attractive.

This gives flavour of day – summary of all presentations will be published at later date through Westminster Forums Website.

Bobby Elliott Qualifications Manager for Computing was down with me - we didn't learn a lot that we are not already discussing with industry in Scotland. He has been down for a few days with CEOP and CompTia and blogs about this here.

Tim Boswell MP and Karen Price E-Skills UK

In UK only 2% of potential pensioners are applying on-line for their pension
Car mechanics need basic IT Skills to service cars
Post Office recently computerized postal walks and rolling out IT system - postal workers are challenged by basic devices deployed.
New terminal at Heathrow will only work if 80% of travelers check in on-line
Small Business’ may have website but don’t have IT productivity skills to drive on business.

Workplaces are not yet technologically enabled and most senior managers are not able to drive the changes that are needed as they lack the technological knowledge even to procure system changes that are required.

Its about schools a bit but 70% of workforce for next twenty years is really the issue.
The workforce of the future is with us now.
Those in work need upskilled.5- 15 year olds either formally or informally have got it.

Anne De Roek Council of Professors and Head of Computing

2001-2006 has seen a 46% decline in those entering IT degrees yet 72% of all job vacancies currently are for IT related vacancies.

Peter Butler Head of Learning BT

BT transforming from engineering to software services company.
Increasingly offshoring work to get right skills and cost base.
In UK 4 million owner managers in SME sector who need better understanding of how IT can help their business.
21 million use IT daily, 9/10 vacancies require basic IT Skills yet hardly anyone as entrants or in existing workforce have had any formal training in using a computer.

Jacqeline Crowley Cappgemini

China will overtake UK in IT in next five years.
76% of UK companies are currently delaying IT projects as the IT Skills are not available
At least 50% of workforce cannot perform basic tasks on computer
But we need more than basics we need high level skills in Java , C++ etc
The USA have relaxed immigration laws to import these skill sets from the developing world. Next wave needs high-level project management skills combined with understanding of the application of IT to business processes – we can do it this – but development and basic programming is moving offshore.

Emily Taylor – Nominet

Offshoring is fact of life and is driving down costs and services up for UK customers and and for rest of developed world while provding jobs in new economies.. But we need to train young people not just to be consumers but creators in this new world.
IT knowledge among general and senior managers is very low and the real challenge to our productivity.

Philip Virgo EURIM Secretary General
30 years ago did huge study which showed best indicator of success in new computing industry was the ability to parse sentences and do basic mathematical functions. He is not convinced this has really changed – technology changes all the time but core competences for successful career in IT industry don’t change.

We should be looking at how we use social networks in range of subjects to get our young people used to working across cultural and linguistic barriers. Global supply chains need this and this is where work will be in future in all industries. Skill is not so much in the IT which will continually change as in how we choose to use it.

Latif Horst Cisco Public Sector Manager

80% of pupils play games and use web2 applications 78% of teachers don’t
Information is changing so rapidly that already three year degree graduates are finding first year and half obsolete on graduation. By 2010 unique technical information will be doubling every 72 hours and systems and software will change hourly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Big Portfolio Changes from Outside but we're winning

October has arrived and we are in the midst of finalising development plans for next year. HN Modernisation almost completed, new National Certificate Groups Awards under way, some more Skills for Work on horizon. Curriculum for Excellence and what happens to some Int1 and Int2 Courses still in the big policy mixing pot. Scottish Vocational Awards under spotlight through the Scottish Skills Strategy. Professional Development Awards and National Progression Awards providing smaller chunks of certificated learning are in demand across a number of sectors.

The Qualification teams are all involved in significant developments in our sector portfolios and as the thirst particularly in the post school sector continues for the Quality Assurance that SQA can bring to life long learning it looks like we will be busier than ever in the next financial year.

  • Good to get Motherwell College on board as Auto Desk lead centre and AdamSmith College on board as Adobe lead centre for DIVA . Glad too for the support of staff like Colin Maxwell who is one of two 'Adobe education leaders' in Scotland, and one of only 15 in the UK overall. The Adobe 'education leader' programme has run successfully in the US for some time and opened up to the rest of the world in 2005.
  • Great news too that Strathclyde Police have adopted the Internet Safety Unit as part of Police training programme.
I am off to Westminster tomorrow to hear I suspect that rest of UK should be doing what we have already done in Scottish Further Education around working with vendors and computing industry. We should really start exporting it south as well as to our overseas customers ;-)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Curriculum for Excellence

Attended an intriguing and challenging presentation from Brian Boyd on Tuesday night around some of the challenges emerging in considering the place of assessment in a curriculum for excellence.

Lots of the areas suggested as areas we could move towards are tools that we already employ in different sectors. I wish there was a greater awareness of the different kinds of assessment done in Colleges , workbased and adult learning. Brian was talking to the converted. The mind forged manicles that can exist in schools sector could be considered theirs to keep or cast off as they choose.

I hope we can in consultation find a way that frees up learning and assessment for the learners. There is some great initial research on comparative systems across the world on the sqa academy. Curriculum reform and how we assess learning is a very active global debate.

Lots of food for thought.
clipped from
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A busy four day week involved a presentation to the new Scottish Industry Alliance for Jobs being led by Learn Direct Scotland . It links well to all the vendor work we have done in last three years.
A day in London at QCA to find out about the new Qualifications and Credit Framework this is being rolled out in England , Wales and Northern Ireland. I am so glad we have the SCQF. Though I sometimes wonder if we realise how well off we are.

A day in Edinburgh for our monthly senior management team meeting and a Friday packed with meetings but culminating in a the SQA Star Awards - always humbling to see the talent that Scotland produces. Then into the car to catch up with the rest of the family at the Seamill Hydro - and the sun shone til late Sunday.

In between times I have been popping in and out of Second Life to see the presentations arriving from the Scottish Learning Festival. I even bumped into Ewan McIntosh's mum in the wee sma hours - having a look around. I guess second life is just as small as the first one.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two weeks back from a glorious holiday in Sardinia - well done Ryanair for getting families of mortals to places like this ( I know global warming - the kids can get me at later date when we are living on multi occupancy houseboat near the summit of Ben Lomond).

I have since been battling with the inbox while attending and speaking at range of events - Scottish Training Federation at Crieff ( members deliver 80% of all Scottish Vocational Qualifications in Scotland) , presenting to a delegation from the Egyptian Government working with SQA on their vocational awarding system, launching formally the Sportstore game - 13,000 learners in Scotland, playing 80,000 games and counting and finally this week speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival and later attending Teachmeet07 at the Science Centre. Wow - what we can do in the classroom now . Due to demands back at base (annual planning cycle and Scottish Skills Strategy ) I did not get to spend as long as I would have liked at SLF good to catch up with few folks including Stephen Heppell ( his sister Pat taught in number of Scottish FE Colleges) and good to see that students on the HN Video Production Course from Jewel and Esk were providing some of the technical support.

Really nice to meet some of the Edubloggers at Teachmeet07. I met an old colleague Gerry Dougan from SFEU and we bemoaned the fact that many of the potential FE Bloggers - who are doing interesting things are all working away inside their College's virtual learning environments. We need to think of a way to get this community hooked in to the blogosphere - serendipity , as an the opportunity to sponsor ScotEdublogs for a year came from one of the presentations at Teachmeet - I hope that SQA can do this jointly with LTS and we can use this as a lever to get those in Colleges and beyond in the training sector involved.
Spent tonight having a look at SLF in 2nd Life - not many folks around but good to see presentations podcasts and videos arriving.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The week ended well with a meeting with the Scottish Social Services Council and the promise of some additional resources to help with the Care and Social Care agenda. The Care Scotland team will really welcome this. I then had to scramble to get some letters out to centres in relation to more Diva developments with Adobe and to some new work with Learndirect Scotland.

In between times we spent a day on team planning for 2008/09 . We are working towards having our qualifications development part of this done by the 21st of September to pass on to our executive team .

We figured out all the things we still need to do for ESOL and debated a commercial publishing opportunity. Had a quick meeting with Glen Senior who flew in from New Zealand around the retail game and managed to drive up and back to Dunkeld on Tuesday evening in a monsoon to welcome a group of new External Verifiers. Had a chance too to get some of my staff involved in the next part of HOSCA our process review project , got involved in SQA's web development strategy, spent an hour looking and talking through commercial targets for the qualifications we deliver outwith Scotland and spent a morning with all the agencies that meet the Scottish Skills Development Agency looking at a number of Sector Skils Development Strategies. - Mainly Social Care and Financial Services this month.

One scary moment when we noticed that some inappropriate posts had appeared on the Internet Safety Wiki - We have shut it down for a day or two so the technical team can sort out the security policies.

Spotted this story about the German National Railway ensuring football fans travelling to a game had beer on tap on the train to and from their match. I bet the train ran on time and was confortable too. A great piece that challenges thinking and our own brand of Scottish/British conservatism and the cultural differences that co-exist across Europe. Made me smile.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A different weekend.

How to confuse your partner - catch a Ryanair Flight from Prestwick to Weeze in Germany and jump in a taxi to Arcen in the Netherlands (16 euros) - a quiet village inside the national park. It has a nice square with restaurants , fantastic castle gardens, sits on a river you can travel across on wee ferries and has a spa with thermal baths when you get tired of cycling from village to village eating cake.

We stayed here and it was excellent

Hardest part is telling your pals in Scotland you went to Weeze and Arcen for the Weekend.
And a sure sign we are aging - ten years ago it would have been a 24hr rave in Amsterdam. Thanks to Ironmanix and flickr for photo

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In the mid 1980's I was teaching English and Communication and using a lot of video and other technologies - remember hypercard anyone ?. In the nineties the web arrived and I tried to get anyone who would listen to get their course on line and get their students to start helping making it better. Some folks thought this was a good idea and I got to evangelise across the sector for a few years.

By now I thought every teacher in the globe would have their stuff up on line and would be working in some collaborative way with their learners and their peers and the learning paradigm would have changed. The power in the system would have moved to the learners and those who guide them. Instead we still have quite a few closed communities and lots of pupils and teachers who are not engaging with this revolution as much as they could be. Burger King can Simpsonise Me but we haven't found the magic formula to engage teachers and learners with this stuff yet.

At least it is great to see that it has started in East Lothian This should be compulsory reading for anyone working in education public policy and our public bodies. If you get the chance , catch Ewan's session at the Scottish Learning Festival.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

SFEU are working on their subject networks for Further Education Staff. Still hard to get all the right people to join the right on-line community and to get them to contribute - I guess this issue will either never go away or we will finally find a platform that everyone likes and joins. I guess you still can't beat a simple email address book with all your key contacts in it. At least the size of Scotland still makes this an easy exercise ;-) I hope GLOW delivers this for School Teachers and for all our qualification development staff who work with schools. We get our first look under the lid next Friday.

Bobby is having another go with a new platform for computing teachers and I see Ewan and Nick from LT Scotland have found Face book to promote the Scottish Learning Festival. I can already see a few familiar faces .

Interesting discussion with SFEU on Second Life - We will be there soon maybe with the Internet Safety Unit for big people and on another tack over 10,000 school pupils are playing our experimental sports store game its is now in more than 50% of all Scottish Secondary Schools. Should make for a good session at Scottish Learning Festival

And our British Sign Language Avatars assessing PC Passport in the deaf community are going down well and looking great. Interesting challenge in that there are not signs in BSL for many new technologies. There is definitely interesting cultural and linguistic study in this observation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It should be a quieter time of the year as many of our customers in the College and School sector are on holiday. Yet, between finalising an e-portfolio system with learndirect Scotland , securing funding for some ESOL work from Executive , planning meetings with Social Services Sector Skills Council and attending a Parliamentary Reception while juggling some judging for learndirect and some marking of bids for JISC there has not been a dull moment.

It was nice to get out with some of the team for a glass of wine on Friday.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Windy Four Days in New Quay
Originally uploaded by joecar80
Spent a windy week in Newquay - I love surfing - but the rain and the cold proved too much for me - but not my four year old who was in the sea every day. Not quite a week. As we had to get back to Glasgow for the dancing display - my first as a dresser. Reminded me a bit of Little Miss Sunshine. Still trying to get glitter spray off my shoes . The fairies were having a great time.

Two of Forty Fairies

Originally uploaded by joecar80
You don't get the eye stinging hairspray, shrieks of excitement or glitter filled dressing room - a new experience for all

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Back to work with a great meeting of the Partners in Learning Steering Group. Success on all fronts the developments around the local authority challenge funds , individual teacher challenge funds and the game are all progressing at a rate of knots. Vanessa and Jaqueline are really managing this massive project well in addition to all they contribute to the team. Nice to see HMIE, GTC , Learning and Teaching Scotland , Microsoft and SQA among others all working to make these developments work for teachers and learners.

Spent the rest of week doing the tail chasing that is always needed when you get back from leave. Delighted to meet the new Sector Panel for Financial Services, spent some time with e-assessment project board reviewing developments across SQA, some time with Scottish Executive working on delivery of Scottish ESOL strategy and then finally at end of week a 5 hour drive to and from Llandudno to present the first canidates with their ICTL Certificates and Diplomas. North Wales was worth the journey if only for a few hours - sunshine and showers here too.
A week of working around and with Scottish Sector Skills Development Agency. It really is good to see all the sector skills councils beginning to work towards sector skills strategies and sector qualifications strategies. Would be good if they understood Scottish Qualifications Landscape a bit more - I suppose that is our job.

Ended week with a showcase event that reflected all that is good about the team. We have huge range of developments rolling out and underway in computing area. The team took on the task of coordinating an event at Hampden Park. A major undertaking which hit the mark in that it was heavily oversubscribed.

Also provided nice platform for Mike Jannetta to bow out. He has more that earned his new post at Glasgow Metropolitan College . We will miss his get up and go.

Friday, July 06, 2007

#WriteTimes and SQA

Demon has been updating my home page server and this looks like keeping these postings off -line for a week or two.

Spent a week in meetings and in recruiting staff. The organisation is going through that positive flex that any organisation goes through when a new chief executive arrives. We are both planning for next year and reviewing our current processes.

We recruited a new project manager to lead on English as a Second Language developments. A critical area for the Scottish economy currently.We have probably for the first time since the 1940's a large community of migrants who need to develop language skills quickly to work within the Scottish economy.

It was great to meet so many employers and training providers at the SQA Customer Conference on Thursday. It rolled well into SQA's celebration of 10 years with an event for current staff with 10 years service and for some of the staff who worked for SCOTVEC and the Scottish Examinations Board our predecessor bodies .

The organisation launched "Write Times" a celebration of all the great creative writing produced by candidates. The writers were present at the launch some really great and moving stuff in this modest publication.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wkibooks and Interent Safety

We are already doing a lot around Wiki development to support learners through a number of specfic projects - looking at the tool as a way to collect assessment evidence and support learners. We are also using Wikis to support qualifications development.

A wee while ago we put the Internet Safety Qualification on a Wiki and asked schools and colleges in Scotland to update the award or make comments on it live on a Wiki. After much piloting the qualification finally launches on Wednesday and it is well supported with online resources from a host of agencies. I look forward to seeing it rolling out to Scotland and beyond. This model of development may be the shape of things to come.

It was great too to learn last week that the book supporting the Applications of ICT in Libraries ( The ICTL Diploma) has been recognised as a featured book. Quietly we are doing our bit for global learning and I am going down to Wales in July to present some of the first certificates to candidates. Grateful to the team and specifically Ted Hastings for leading on this.

"Books on featured on Wikibooks are of exceptionally high quality and which may serve as a
good example for other authors to follow may be labeled as a featured bookand advertised prominently. Featured books are listed at Wikibooks:Featured books , they may be listed on the main page, and they may appear in other places as well. Books can be nominated to be featured by making a proper nomination at Wikibooks:Featured books/Nominations , and the community will accept the nomination with a vote.Books on Wikibooks which are exceptionally high quality and which may serve as a good example for other authors to follow
may be labeled as a featured book and advertised prominently. Featured
books are listed at Wikibooks:Featured books , they may be listed on the main page,
and they may appear in other places as well. Books can be nominated to be
featured by making a proper nomination at Wikibooks:Featured books/Nominations , and the community will accept the nomination with a vote."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sport Shop Game and Gamification of Learning

The number of schools and teachers registering to play the sports store game is exceeding all expectations. We should have guessed this would be the case given the popularity of the pilot.
The team are working hard to make sure all schools and teachers are registered and that we know which subjects the game is being used to support. This is required to help us review impact of game at the end of next year. It also helps us dissuade pupils from picking inappropriate names when playing the game. Some things never change , we have moved on from aliases like Hugh Jarse but highlights some of the challenges involved.
Still trying to work out a funding package to get Colleges officially involved.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Family Life

Originally uploaded by joecar80
Alexander's latest "learning to walk exercise" is to push Molly-Jean around on a trolley. MJ likes this too.

Test posting to see if I can still post in with Flickr Images