Monday, September 29, 2008

$98 Linux Laptop from China - The HiVision MiniNote

When you see this I think it confirms where learning is going and where schools in the UK need to go.

Those who run IT in schools need to concentrate on running robust wireless and hardwired networks with a focus on use-ability rather than blocking things. I liked what I have heard about Westlothian allowing learners to hook up their own devices to schools wireless networks.

We also need to look at different approaches to assessment for schools. It really is happening already in College and in the workplace. This before any of this technology arrived so sensible changes in assessment methodology don't have to be assessment driven. But think what a leap forward we could make if we did make best use of this.

It is all in the pipeline. It will take some courage all round for us to get here. The biggest threat to these changes at moment is not I believe from the educational establishment , nor from learners or politicians but weirdly from the media -why are they so conservative. ( with wee c)

Here is a report from Australia on an experiment. Thanks Andy Black at Becta for spotting this. Your Black Hole is still blocked at SQA ;-) Though I have to say it is now about only thing that ever gets blocked.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Key note Scottish Learning Festival

Fiona Hyslop - Cabinet Secretary

7,000 attendees best year yet for SLF
1400 at Fiona's talk
Economic success and getting all young people to share prosperity is broad target
Set out in 15 national outcomes - interdependent and many relate to education

We host delegations from all around world- Our system is famous
OECD review has increased Scottish Educational standing
But problems in upper secondary and that children from poorer families are not succeeding in our system - who you are should not be holding you back.

Curriculum for Excellence is our response - from pre-school to life beyond school
Schools and school staff to take more responsibility for change of curriculum.
Importance of collaboration and leadership at all levels
Association of Director of Education have bought into this.

We no longer want less compliant self direction we want less central direction and to put more trust in our teaching profession
Building curriculum 3 framework for learning and development creates framework for this
The frameworks for assessment on their way.
Qualifications system and consultation on next generation of awards is ongoing currently plea to engage with this.

GLOW - building up head of steam in Scotland and tributes coming in from international community - George Lucas wants US Congress to do the same.
Lots of examples of how Glow is being used up and down schools and studies coming through showing it had impact on learning.
Says pupils switch from Bebo t0 Glow - ( thought this was blocked most shcools )

Best thing about Scottish education the debate . Highly ambitious reform programme and we all need to work together to make it work - once in a life time opportunity- important for future success of Scotland. Only together can we do this

Professor Richard Tease

Shame he was not asked to look at link between school and vocational education
How we move from straight jacket of success – professional sharing opening a door of opportunity to create a living culture of learning .

Within schools and communities between learners , teachers and learners , teacher to teacher, with parents , employers , FE , Universities etc

What are relationships we want to build through curriculum – bonds of learning
How we engage learners more fully or lift expectations of staff – how do we engage parents especially in deprived communities.

For teachers fear resides in isolation need to get them interacting with other schools and teachers.

Curriculum needs to be seen as culture not law – continuous variation and adaptation will move things forward.

Isolation of learner and teachers in some weak schools – all scared of revealing ignorance – we need to lift horizons and expectations – schools and teachers need to take risks to break out of this.

We need to share this risk if we want system to break out from here – will take courage at many levels, LAs , NDPBS, Gov

Great speech

Questions -
QNeil Winton - well done - who helps teachers access basic internet sites.

Q Mismatch in teacher ed training - timing the retirements are coming through we are out of synch have set up teacher employment working group - money is in at the top.
Good point from floor and was an issue 20 years ago when I started - there are number of folk in classrooms who just don't want to be there anymore .. surley not

Q Teacher wants conference shifted to weekend - so real teachers can come along. good point

Q What are issues arounf testing in Scotland.
Richard Tease testing helps understand where children stand but we don't use it to judge schools or shame teachers - should be diagnostic - how long do we wait to intervene when we know children in particular groups need help -how do schools self assess themselves how to teachers self evaluate to make sure we know when extra help is needed.
Fiona - will ask local authorities re-look at step down

Q Teacher - can we scrap league tables - expressed in Higher and standard grade passes
( aside yes in fact government did three or more years ago this is a scourge and damaging to system and is no longer in our system but local authorities are still beating up schools like this ?? ) -
Fiona - We need to change what employers ,colleges and universities expect and at LA level should be about 4 capacities not about exam passes and should be about SCQF and not just formal qualifictions- yes
( aside it's almost all there but schools are not encouraged to pick up centre assessed units and programmes - Do employers know about 4 capacities ? )

Q How can we ensure class reductions and reduce teacher burn out.
Richard Tease - need to talk beyond schools and classroom too many teachers struggle to find ways to go forward ways to reflect to lift their game - ways to exchange experiences with schools in similar and different situations -( looks like great opportunity for GLOW )
Fiona - teacher numbers are coming into system - but some local challenges in Glasgow and Aberdeen - at least you have government that are driving these changes and there has been progress so far
Q How can we ensure 35hour annual CPD in local authorities is relevant to national agenda.
Fiona - have been in discussion with Directors of Education on this - collegiate nature of curriclum for excellence will drive changes and break down isolation.

Missed a couple but great session and long too

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scottish Learning Festival 2008

Thumbnail image of cover of Conference guide 2008

There are a few main gatherings I have in my diary every year. What was SETT and is now the Scottish Learning Festival is one of them . It is the first time since 2000 that I am not organising a session of some kind at this or it's predecessor events. I can't even remember what they were called in 90's and late 80's when they ran at the old Scottish Council for Educational Technology Centre.

I had cleared two days to get around lots of stands and catch up with colleagues as well see some of the key notes.

I had scheduled - Cabinet Secretary and Ollie Bray for tomorrow
and Kari Smith, Charlie Leadbetter and Gill Robinson sessions for Thursday

Then reality hits I now need to be back in the office to interview some staff on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday is senior management team which has been moved to Dalkeith. I get a morning to see around.

Catch me if you want my briefs forOllie's session on Wednesday or my Thursday sessions.

At least I can still get along to Teachmeet tomorrow evening - sorry to be missing dinner with this gang - but I have business dinner and meeting later.
I am lucky in that I am no longer tied to an institution and a timetable - it's great to see more and more tools are being used to share all the good stuff that goes on at SLF.

I now look forward to seeing some of the webcasts of what I have missed at a later date - but please remember most teachers won't be there tomorrow or Thursday and we need them all to come with us if we are really going to change how we do things...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Journalism and Education

Read this - then read it again and again..
At the SQA we are of course totally "crazy" and we thrive on getting "black marks" this is entirely due to all of the highly experienced subject specialists we employ.

but please look at end of article.
An SQA spokesman said: "It would be entirely untrue to say that Edwin Morgan is being ignored, banned or dropped from Advanced Higher English.

"Students at Advanced Higher level have a completely free choice of authors and texts for the specialist study element of the course which counts for almost half of the marks. If candidates wish to study the works of Edwin Morgan – and many do – then they can. Edwin Morgan could well be restored when next the list is refreshed."
Must have been a quiet news day - and just think about the fuss any time we make anything compulsory..

It's just like crawling across hot coals with folk who should know better standing on you. There is a debate perhaps to be had around the whole literature , language , communications area - but what is the hope for debate in face of reportage like this.

Still better in the news than out eh ;-) and thanks to colleague on ScotEduBlogs for Editable Einstein.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ben Walker - You're No One If You're Not On Twitter

Lyric amused me

Picked up from Jane Knight

But scarier there are even more songs on YouTube about Twitter mmmm ?

Titter ye not - what happened to songs about.. well other stuff..

Blackholes and Beer Bottles

Heard the news today and remembered a friend who was working on this 10 years or more ago and who is sadly no longer around - and then spotted why physics experiments go wrong. On BBC website

While working on the LHC's predecessor, a machine called the Large-Electron
Positron Collider, engineers found two beer bottles wedged into the beam pipe -
a deliberate, one-off act of sabotage. The culprits - who were drinking a
particular brand that advertising once claimed would "refresh the parts other
beers cannot reach" - were never found.

That's the way the world ends not with bang but a Carlsberg .. more seriously
look at the amount of team work and cooperation that has gone into this .. now if only we could get people to work more cooperatively what other problems could we solve.

aye I know it's Heineken but it doesn't scan as well and at any rate if they did do Big Bangs it would possibly be the Biggest Bang ..

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Next Generation of National Qualifications

Teachers the future shape of qualifications is in your hands .. I posted earlier on this when the consultation started - it is critical that teachers engage with consultation.. the system is yours to shape .. you can actively participate or passively .. well choice is yours and when consensus emerges we'll make them - get involved.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

ALT-C 2008: Rethinking the digital divide

ALT-C 2008: Rethinking the digital divide

Leeds, UK, 9-11 September 2008

I am missing ALT-C this week - but will follow what I can through twitter and bloglines. I enjoyed spell on the executive and still follow many friends from this time. I spotted this piece on the digital divide - some of the creativity across UK elearning is fantastic - (hit more button) and watch the section on eportfolios ( in Wales every one has one already ) I think this is a neat explanation for school pupils. Amused too that it looks like they are having an ALT equivalent of Teachmeet F.ALT.
(hosted on a wetpaint platform, it and Ning are really cool and easy to use at moment)

There has been some consistantly great and useable stuff coming from Pontydysgu the Welsh Educational Research Institute.

Reminds me too that there is still too much of a digital divide among those who work in Education and Life Long Learning. If you are interested in the broader UK community and interested in learning technology across the learning arena then ALT is worth joining.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Chrome New Google Browser

Now sitting with five or six ( safari arrives every time i-tunes updates)  different browsers on my desk-top. To date I have liked Firefox best of all  and was really disappointed we could not stick in on my SQA laptop -"as  it does not have an enterprise edition"  so I can't get it for all my staff - runs well from a datastick though ;-) 

I am sure I recall a joke that contained a punchline about the talent to  lick the chrome off a bumper.  Don't know if I'll change but have liked playing around with this. Like how I can attach and unattach window tabs - it has class and very quick too - but not licked firefox.

For many it's not about all these new tools. It is really just about showing them how to use the ones we have productively.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The World of Chemistry

This cheered me up and more seriously something for learners of all ages

Digital Media Academy

What if I said Scottish schools and Colleges could do something like this right now ?

Digital Media Academy Summer Computer Camps & Creative Training

and learners would get credit towards a range of national awards as well as picking up appropriate vendor certification if they wanted it.

What do we need to do to get things moving .. marketing as slick as this.. ?? - tours of Stanford University.. more razzamatazz ?

This post from futurelab made me depressed - we have thought this all the way through to here and passed this point in Scotland but it has been slow to move out into Colleges and Schools
Congratulations to Islay Academy and our DIVA lead centres they are in vangard on this. Now if only like the weather this good practice would blow across rest of Scotland.

You could do it open source if the vendor bit does not appeal to your sensibilities and that's the bit that's been holding you back ;-)

Bobby and the Computing Posse are waiting to hear from you .

Monday, September 01, 2008

Like-A -Bike


Sometimes simple ideas really work. My two year old goes out into garden puts on his bicycle helmet and races around the garden freewheeling and in control while my five year old who learned with stabilisers has just found her balance and can't keep up.
This is a great product - but there is a valuable lesson - learners don't need stabilisers ;-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The revised organisational framework for skills in Scotland

This is dry but factual and thanks to Susie Hill and our internal research team for this excellent summary.

A detailed view of who looks after all the occupational competences in Scotland and UK.
SQA make and regulate the qualifications coming out of this policy environment.

The Leitch Review of the UK’s long term skill needs was published in December 2006. Following this, the governments of the UK set out their own plans with Skills for Scotland, a Lifelong Skills Strategy, published in September 2007 being the Scottish Government's response . Since then, there has there has been rationalisation of skills bodies at UK and devolved levels. Among those affected have been the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA), the National Employment Panel (NEP), and the Sector Skills Alliance Scotland. Working arrangements and patterns of relationship between the newly created bodies are emerging.

Skills Groups
The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES)
This body was launched 1 April 2008 and is primarily advisory in nature. Its remit is to develop an independent view on how employment and skills services can be improved, to assess progress, and to advise Ministers at UK and devolved levels. It will also fund and manage the performance of the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs), advise on their re-licensing, and report to Parliament. Two of its quarterly reporting meetings at UK Ministerial level will include the devolved governments. The full Commission itself will meet four times a year, and operate with six sub-committees, one strategic. Minutes are published on the internet.
The body is registered as a company, is funded by grant in aid and has: as Chairman, Sir Michael Rake of BT; as Chief Executive, Chris Humphries formerly of City & Guilds; and 20 Commissioners. These include Grahame Smith of the STUC and Willie Roe, Commissioner for Scotland and Chair of Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
In the development of a five year strategic plan, the Commission is carrying out a public consultation over a five month period, closing in September. At the same time, it is assessing the performance of each Sector Skills Council (SSC), including through employer feedback. Each SSC will submit a business case for re-licensing by June 2009.

The Alliance of Sector Skills Councils (TASSC)
The Alliance was also set up in April 2008 to articulate the employer voice in the skills system, giving SSCs increased influence over policy. This includes ensuring that the voice is heard in the design and development of learning at all levels and in all settings.
The Alliance is funded by the subscriptions of its members, and is a company limited by guarantee with offices in London, Edinburgh, Bridgend, and Belfast. It recently appointed John McNamara as first Chief Executive.
The Alliance in Scotland has a sub-structure of a Council, four Strategic Groups - one for each key aim - and a Forum to deliver the aims set out in Skills for Scotland.
The Alliance Council comprises: the Director, Scotland; the Chief Executive; the Chairs of the four Strategic Groups; and four of the Partner Organisations, namely the Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland (SDS), SQA, and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). It has no legal duties but may produce reports.
Employer Engagement Strategic Group. This group has nine SSC representatives. External members to date are the Scottish Government and SQA.
Partnerships Strategic Group. This group has eight SSC representatives and to date, one external member, the Scottish Government.
Labour Market Intelligence Strategic Group. This group has six SSC representatives, together with the Scottish Government and SQA. Its focus is sectoral LMI as opposed to the global approach of Futureskills Scotland.
Qualifications and Learning Strategic Group. This group has seven SSC members together with the Scottish Government. It is anticipated that there will also be representation from SQA (x2), ASC, and SCQF.
Alliance Forum. This internal group will have representation from all 25 SSCs to facilitate network communication.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
In September 2007 the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced the creation of SDS bringing together Careers Scotland, learndirect scotland/SUFI, and key skills elements of Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Highlands (HIE) and Islands Enterprise, including funding of the National Training Programmes.
SDS to work to realise the vision set out in Skills for Scotland focusing on individual development of skills, the improved economic pull of skills, and the creation of cohesive structures for the delivery of skill development. It is a registered company limited by guarantee and an NDPB fully accountable to Scottish Ministers.
Willie Roe, Scotland Commissioner to UKCES, is the Chair with Damien Yates, formerly of learndirect scotland/SUFI, as Chief Executive. There are five non-executive board members. They are:
Evelyn McCann, formerly of SE
William Stevely, formerly in HE
Ann Douglas, National Secretary of Prospect
Janet Lowe, SFC and SDS Boards
Alan McGregor, Glasgow University
Cay Stratton, Special advisor on UKCES.
An Operating Plan 2008/9 has been published. It states that there will be close working in particular with the SFC and its Skills Committee, and that consultation is taking place to support the development of a first corporate plan.

Modern Apprenticeship Group (MAG)
The Modern Apprenticeship Implementation Group was renamed as of 1 January 2007 to become MAG. It has a formal constitution and derives its authority from Scottish Ministers. Its remit is to approve and re-approve Modern Apprenticeship Frameworks for Scotland. A formal procedure for member nominations has been introduced and an independent chair is to be appointed. The members to date are SDS, the Scottish Government, SFEU, SQA Accreditation Unit, the Scottish Training Federation, STUC, and TASSC. At any time a maximum of six representatives from different organisations maybe invited to attend.

SCQF Partnership
The SCQF Partnership Board was set up in November 2006 to manage the Framework. The members are ASC, SQA, the QAA for HE, Universities Scotland, and the Scottish Government. It is chaired by Dr. Andrew Cubie.
The SCQF Forum helps support the Framework. It is made up from senior representatives from education, business and communities in Scotland and will include SDS, TASSC, and UKCES.
The Quality Committee ensures clear, accurate technical information. It is chaired by Prof. Alex MacLennan and has nine members representing FE, HE, local authorities, SQA, QAA, HMIE, and the Institute of Bankers.

Scottish Funding Council Skills Committee
The Skills Committee of SFC collects and processes evidence of skill needs in Scotland, advises how improvement can be made in meeting them, and considers the supply and demand for FE and HE. It makes inputs and receives inputs from other Council committees and groups.
The Skills Committee has three Council members, one of whom, Dr. Janet Lowe, is the Chair. She is also on the Board of SDS. Among the 10 external members are Grahame Smith of the STUC and Chris Humphries of UKCES.

Monday, August 18, 2008


For those who tell me that Web2 offers nothing useful. There is clearly a lot of social enterprise going on behind this site. Description below and worth a look for intersting Google Maps Mash Up.

If Renton had this in Trainspotting would he still have had to stick his arm down that U-Bend ?
Coming to a city near you...

Like the description

Diaroogle helps you find quality public toilets from your mobile phone.

It's for the discerning, on-the-go defecator who is brave enough to use a public bathroom, but still demands a hygienic and private bathroom experience. It is also a community authored database of New York toilets.

Blog Power

I got a nice message this morning from from Andrew Carey at the Triarchy Press, the publisher of "Systems Thinking in the Public Sector" offering me a second hand copy - he had picked up my last blog post.

I actually ordered one over the weekend and have already found a donor for book when it arrives, thanks to Twitter and thanks again to Andrew and Triarchy Press. I hope it is the inspiring read that I have been promised.

Interesting who reads blogs - when I posted on Microsoft Popfly I got a helpful follow up comment from headquarters in Redmond within a matter of hours.

Web2 is shrinking the world and Scots Educators you need to get out here ;-) ( this message is for those that can't access this ;-) )

Friday, August 15, 2008

Leadership in the Public Sector

Interesting that following my last posting I have had quite a few suggestions on useful books on changes that are needed particularly in public sector in the UK . But more interesting three of the suggestions all pointed to one book recently published and none of these plugs came from the author or anyone connected with the publisher. Better go and buy a copy or if anyone in SQA has spare one - let me know...

Cover of 'Systems Thinking in the Public Sector' by John Seddon

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Leadership and Management in UK

Some of the educational bloggers I follow have been blogging about management and leadership this week - must be that back to school week. see John and Don Leddingham

Meanwhile I have just been at meetings with industry and standards setting bodies who blame decline on education mmm is this Six Degrees of Separation or more likely they are already looking at the changes that need to come in management and leadership across industry.

A good place to look are the national occupational standards NOS in UK for management and leadership these are developed by the Management Standards Centre. We use these standards as basis for awards in Scotland and rest of UK and we work closely with the Chartered Management Institute to make sure our HN awards lead to Chartered Manager Status.

I attended a rather entertaining launch of some new standards in London on Wednesday here are the main points from the morning. Making UK Management and Leadership Skills World Class by 2020: Pioneering Change

In reverse order from twitter (slightly edited with other notes from day)

It started out in quite a focused way and by end - well it's all the fault of teachers and television.

But some useful nuggets - I've not checked these "facts"

On serious note we have some recognised serious shortcomings across the Scottish public and private sectors and we are going to see what else can be done about this and that was why my journey was necessary.

Joe Wilson
Television finally getting blame for promoting bullying and poor values The Apprentice and Devils Den and the swearing chefs not good role models
Joe Wilson lesson from this morning give people around you continual opportunities to step up and take risks manage challenges
Joe Wilson where do children learn to be leaders in todays schools ? not enough challenge
Joe Wilson leadership and management failures in UK being piled at education's doors. Grumpy corporate rotters or is this insight ??
Joe Wilson despite credit crunch stilll queues for private schools in london and across UK in Sweden money follows learner this drives up standards
Joe Wilson or driven by a lack of values and attitudes to learning there is no simple answer
Joe Wilson current school system (england) "only" fails 54pc of young people this is higher than anywhere in the developed world. A scandal and driven by academic snobbery
Joe Wilson do you do intense leadership coaching with all staff and offer rewards on how on well they develop the next leaders
Joe Wilson have you got staff who are able to "not take " or opt out of responsibility for what they do from beginning to end if so redesign work
Joe Wilson don't do top down plans they don't work
Joe Wilson good example of mindmaps rather than using business reports massive added value in large corporation over night
Joe Wilson still problem at policy level in UK we are too arrogant to look at rest of world
Joe Wilson UK low esteem and a lack of pride in achievement and too many managers who don't have proper values , aspirations or goals in private and public sector - ouch
Joe Wilson leadership and risk has to be in our industries context but we should all take more risk
Joe Wilson chinese best qualified managers and good at identifying their weaknesses deep understanding of skillsets required UK USA too complacent
Joe Wilson if you are not growing next leaders in your company or in your industry - serious problems with your leadership and your industry
Joe Wilson leaders need constant challenge and validation and should never be too busy to think - reflection should be regular
Joe Wilson we learn leadership by doing it and being open to challenges not through courses or qualifications How do you move staff around no comfort zones if you want to grow managers and leaders??
Joe Wilson There are no low tech industries but there are too many low tech organisations in the UK