Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So SQA and #Openbadges What does that Really Mean ? #Mozfest

 In has taken a longer gestation period than I expected it to - but that is sometimes simply the nature of something worthwhile - but finally and with  the support of a number of colleagues from across  the SQA we had a paper accepted and approved by the necessary committees and we can move ahead in supporting #openbadges.

The press release came out two weeks ago and generated quite a lot of twitter traffic and a lot of emails too.
I thought it was worth setting out just what has been agreed.

I am speaking to Mozillians on Wednesday night and on Saturday I am a guest at Mozfest in London to speak to some of the many English based awarding bodies on the national approach we are taking to #Openbadges in Scotland.

I hope too to meet some other national awarding and accreditation bodies from around the world and compare notes on their approaches to #openbadges

We already have generated a lot of interest from corporate sector and from a number of professional bodies who are interested in our approach from across the UK.

Here is substance in terms of press release -

 Over the last two years we have been in dialogue with the Mozilla Foundation.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority supports the concept of Open Badges and is working in partnership with the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group  to support the adoption of Open Badges across a range of sectors.

We believe that the infrastructure promotes and supports greater flexibility for learning and the recognition of achievement.

Within the national context we believe that Open Badges have the potential to: accredit significant small steps in a learner’s journey from informal learning to formal certification,  offer recognition for the achievement of single competencies and outcomes,  provide recognition for chunks of learning or performance smaller than would normally be recognised in national certification and national credit rating systems and that badges can  be used towards accreditation of prior learning where appropriate.

 In an organisational context: We will explore the adoption of Open Badges as part of the recognition that we can offer teachers and appointees through our SQA Academy Courses We will explore the possibilities that Open Badges offer in terms of digital certification in the future.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Random Thoughts on Opening Up Education from #NAACE12

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Innocents Abroad

Photo of EBS Choir Singing on Thursday Evening - thanks to @Finnfield for image 

It is tough sometimes being an innocent abroad even an informed innocent. Last Tuesday evening I ran across Taksim Square , Istanbul , in a rush to get to the first of two evening receptions where my aim was to network like mad for Scottish education. As the second function was being hosted by Universities Scotland I had my kilt on.

My guide to the city was the usual hastily grabbed map from the hotel lobby affixed with two biro crosses by the concierge. Yes,  I have all the gadgetry but sometimes even in London I can't get a GPRS signal. Darkness was falling. I was running , running late and overheating. When I got to the far side of Taksim Square and met the first row of police, I realised immediately that something was amiss . I realised too that the phalanx  was quite large and blocked my planned route up and through Istiklal Street .

This was where the comedy started. As I stood studying my map looking for an alternative route around the roadblock,  a friendly, helpful policeman studied my predicament too and then pitying a sweaty foreigner , in a dress, with a map wholly inadequate for navigating the medieval back streets of Istanbul , he allowed me through the police lines.  I strode on up Istiklal Street - it is really beautiful.  I met another row of policemen , used sign language to explain that their colleagues had let me through and they waved me passed too and I climbed on,  past tables full of diners.

My thoughts were now on  white or red ? , sneaking a cigarette before I made my entrance and what gastronomic delights lay ahead. This was the first night of the conference and I was hoping for Baba Ganoush,  Kofte Kebabs , steaming bowls of aromatic couscous and other Turkish delights.  I now too had the perfect excuse for arriving my usual ten minutes or so late.  So intent was I on my own musings that I hardly noticed that the street was busier now , even crowded. Quite a lot of nice smiling students poked some well meaning fun at the alien figure in the kilt striding up through their midst.

I was now at the top of Istiklal Street and within half a mile of my final destination, only a few junctions and two more turns to navigate and I would be at the British Embassy.

I am not sure when I noticed the immoveable shield wall. But it was suddenly right in front of me. You instinctively know when presented by authority's sternest face that negotiation here would be futile . As I turned smartly on my heels to find a lane or an alleyway to allow my continued progress. I noticed that some of the students I had just passed appeared now to be in some kind of fancy dress. As I squeezed passed them , my pace quickened  as I noticed they were actually pulling up ultra style scarf face masks and some of them had unmistakably either gas masks or some other sort of full head hood to protect you from chemical weapons. I was now jogging to get away from this potential confrontation.

Then all hell broke loose.

I did not need to look around to know that the riot police were charging down the hill . I was now a sprinting man in a kilt doing my best to negotiate a rapid descent down a poorly lit cobbled  street. The steps outside basement bars and restaurants now threatened broken limbs,  as some of the swifter protesters elbowed me in our shared eagerness to keep away from and ahead of the riot police.

Probably, just at the moment as I heard things being fired at us and ricocheting off the buildings around us , a well lit lane with some alarmed looking diners appeared to my left . I pitched down this, was quickly identified as a hapless tourist and was ushered into the bar with the other startled guests .

The shutters came down and the streets filled with shrieks and tear gas.

And now I know basement bars are not good places to hide from tear gas.

Postscript - That evening I was just in the wrong place at precisely the wrong time - the following evening I traveled the same route for dinner at the British Consulate without incident .

I actually thought that the police were letting me through as I was heading away from any trouble spots.

 Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world at almost 14 million and while like any city you have to keep your wits about you I would have no hesitation in going back and taking my family with me  , the folk are friendly and the glimpses I caught of the ancient city were spectacular. When I finally got some,  the food too as might be expected is exceptional.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Changing Face of Social Media

Dorpsomroeper / Town-crier
When I started blogging regularly in 2000 I knew that social media or social publishing was the future for most things. But it would take a long time for the world to catch up.

When I moved from the Scottish Further Education Unit to the Scottish Qualifications Authority in 2003.  I was not really surprised by the high degree of suspicion around things like blogs and then things like twitter .

Even though I have always made it clear that I used these things in an unofficial capacity.  I had to go with SQA's then CEO's blessing to our Scottish Govt sponsoring department to get permission to blog in any capacity. 

I was not doing it to be subversive but simply to reach the parts of the world that a more official means never really reaches - perhaps that is subversive. I was pleased too to see schools and what was then Learning and Teaching Scotland staff getting the blogging bug.

I have to say everyone in the end was always reluctantly supportive of what I was doing usually when I pointed to who and where we were generating business through my use of social media - but there was always, a sometimes silent  majority and sometimes some quite vocal and threatening pokes, usually from other agencies,  that would have quite liked a bit less blogging and tweeting from my direction .

The world has changed - I enjoyed reading our organisation's  latest social media metrics report this month.

·         Within those authors directly referencing SQA, we are encouraged by the continual engagement created by Joe Wilson and Tahir Mohammed, with both authors continually growing their following and becoming authoritative voices in the education sector.

Yes we do social media metrics now -  and  we now have an organisational social media policy.

I hope that means that New Ventures and innovation is getting a bit closer to the heart of what we do and not that I am now being overtaken by events.

If you are a lone educational blogger or twitterer in your organisation - keep the faith and keep sharing - it really will be alright in the end.

I would still like to see a much longer list of SQA staff on this list and I think that many other public organisations have a long way to go too.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

#altc2013: Building New Cultures of Learning

Every year  I meet lots of people having either that ICT eureka moment or being stuck with some challenge that other folks in a different education sector figured out a while ago.

The ALT Conference is a great opportunity to both have your own eureka moment and to solve that technological hang up that is stopping your learners and your institution making progress.  In this most exciting of all learning frontiers.

The 20th annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology
will be held at the East Midlands Conference Centre, University of
Nottingham from 10-12 September 2013. This year the conference
features keynotes from Stephen Downes, Wendy Hall and Rachel Wenstone,
as well as special events to mark the 20th anniversary.

Late registration will be open until approximately two weeks before
the conference so book now to avoid disappointment! If you are an ALT
member you are entitled to a 20% discount on all conference fees.
Register via http://goo.gl/6SK67

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Open Badges Scotland and SCOOB Group #openbadges

Really just using a range of vehicles including my own blog to promote membership of the Scottish Open Badges Group.

See communication below from Grainne Hamilton JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland

Over recent months there has been increasing interest in the digital, standards-based, open accreditation framework called Open Badges http://openbadges.org/. The Open Badges Infrastructure, which is being developed by Mozilla and shaped by an international community of people interested in accreditation, can be used to issue, display and earn digital representations of awards. A number of high profile organisations, educational institutions and communities such as NASA, Microsoft, De Paul University and the City of Chicago are already using Open Badges to reward and recognise hard and soft skills, achievements, attributes, contributions and so on.

In Scotland, interest has been growing in the opportunities afforded by Open Badges to augment traditional accreditation routes. A recent Jisc RSC Scotland event, the Open Badges Design Day, provided an opportunity for people to work with the Mozilla Badges and Skills Lead to consider the framework and possible badge-based pathways to learning. At this event, there was consensus that it would be useful to bring together interested parties to identify areas where Open Badges could add value to education in Scotland and to co-develop such badges.

The Jisc RSC Scotland has, therefore, convened the Scottish Open Badges (SCOOB) Group, which has met once and agreed that members will perform an overview and mapping function of Open Badges developments in Scotland, set up a number of sub-groups to jointly take forward specific areas of Open Badges work (to be agreed) and consider and develop badge pathways. The group hopes that through the input of representatives from a variety of educational institutions and agencies in Scotland, we will be able to consider synergies between different stages on a learner's formal and informal learning journey and contribute to the development of a badge eco-system within Scotland.

We want to ensure a broad representation on the SCOOB Group and sub-groups and would like to hear from anyone in Scottish education interested in joining them.

To note interest in becoming a member or if you would like more information about the kinds of areas the sub-groups might cover, please email openbadges@rsc-scotland.ac.uk. Please include a list of any particular areas of interest you have regarding Open Badges.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mozilla Badges #InAfS

Badger , Badger but watch out for any snake-oil

To make my new year's prediction come true - I've been doing a bit of work in the background to get Mozilla Badge Making and Earning  an established part of the Scottish learning firmament.

Think about a different way of credentialing you or your learners skills . A way that is on-line, in the cloud  and portable. You can add a badge to your online identity or resume when you want to, no more hunts in cupboards and attics for paper certificates and you can decide what , when and where you want to share your badges.

The infrastructure can make public,  the learning outcomes you achieved , the awarding agency, the assessors, even the work that was produced for the assessment can be digitally linked to the badge.

Add to this some quite well built out systems in areas like web-design and coding for the web and Mozilla Badges offer a real opportunity to change the way we think about the recognition of achievement.

The system also offers,  the opportunity to bread-crumb learning outcomes towards national qualifications and a mechanism for providing recognition for chunks of learning smaller than would normally be recognised either by formal qualifications or by national credit frameworks like the SCQF ( normally learning of less that 10 hours is not recognised) .The system could allow centres to quickly build customised awards where they want these .

Ideal too for primary and secondary schools and other groups that may want a flexible recognition of achievement system.

Have a look at how the  JISC RSC Scotland have built badges that provide steps towards a range of national recognition and recognition too through professional standardsThe Jisc RSC Scotland are making extensive use of the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI), which enables an open, standards-based way to issue digital recognition and accreditation. 

In areas like web-design centres should be using the well developed on-line resources and badges and offering accreditation of prior learning for relevant badges towards larger national awards.

Mozilla Badges  will become in time the natural adjunct to any e-portfolio .

The Scottish Qualifications Authority is exploring how open badges can be built into the national qualifications system. We are hosting an event next Tuesday in Glasgow to see what else we can do to support and promote the flexibility for centres and learners that Mozilla Badges offer.

#OpenScotland #OER

On the 27th of June a group of decision makers from across Scottish Education will gather in Edinburgh for "Open Scotland".  

Open Scotland is a one day summit facilitated by Jisc CETIS in collaboration with SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG. 
The event will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to critically reflect on the national and global impact and opportunities of open education, provide a forum to identify shared strategic interests and work towards a more integrated Scottish approach to openness in education.
A smarter Scotland is critical to delivering the Government's Purpose of achieving sustainable economic growth. By making Scotland smarter, we will lay the foundations for the future wellbeing and achievement of our children and young people, increase skill levels across the population and better channel the outputs of our universities and colleges into sustainable wealth creation, especially participation, productivity and economic growth.”

How can Scotland leverage the power of “open” to develop the nation’s unique education offering? Can openness promote strategic advantage while at the same time supporting social inclusion, inter-institutional collaboration and sharing, and create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners? 

The Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland’s Digital Future’ strategy, published in 2011, sets out the steps that are required to ensure Scotland is well placed to take full advantage of all the economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by the digital age.  However, whilst the Scottish Government has been active in advocating the adoption of open data policies and licences it has yet to articulate policies for open education and open educational resources. 

 In March 2013, the Scottish Funding Council published a ‘Further and Higher Education ICT Strategy’ that builds on the Scottish further and higher education sectors’ culture of collaboration and the range of national shared services that are already in place, many of which are supported by Jisc, JANET UK and others.  

What kinds of open policies and practices can we develop and share across all sectors of Scottish education to help implement these strategies and move them forward?

Scotland has a proud and distinctive tradition of education, which is recognised internationally.  The Curriculum for Excellence is transforming schools to better equip our children for the challenges of the 21st century.  With our colleges and universities experiencing major changes in terms of structure, funding and access, Scotland’s colleges are opening up their educational content to the world through the new Re:Source OER repository.  
The University of Edinburgh have pioneered the delivery of MOOCs in Scotland, recently attracting over 300,000 students to six online courses, and Napier University is embracing open practice through their open 3E Framework for teaching with technology, which has been adopted by over 20 institutions globally.  The Jisc RSC Scotland are making extensive use of the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI), which enables an open, standards-based way to issue digital recognition and accreditation. The Scottish Qualifications Authority is exploring how open badges can be built into the national qualifications system and the ICT Excellence Group, which is overseeing the re-development of the Scottish schools' intranet GLOW, are also investigating their potential use

Elsewhere, the HEFCE funded UKOER Programme has been instrumental in stimulating the release of open educational resources and embedding open practice in English HE institutions.  SURFNet in the Netherlands recently published their second ‘Trends Report on OER’, and a group of Nordic countries have launched the Nordic Alliance for OER. The UNESCO 2012 Paris Declaration called on governments to openly license publicly funded educational materials, and later that year the European Union issued a public consultation on “Opening up Education – a proposal for a European initiative” in advance of a new EU Initiative on "Opening up Education" expected to launch in mid-2013. Underpinning many of these developments is an increased acceptance and adoption of Creative Commons licences.

We are experiencing a period of unprecedented flux in all sectors of teaching and learning.  For better or for worse, the advent of MOOCs has opened a public debate on the future direction of post-school education, though the balance of commercial opportunities and threats from the increased marketisation and commodification of education is  still unclear.

Open Scotland is a one day summit facilitated by Jisc CETIS in collaboration with SQA,  Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG.  The event will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to critically reflect on the national and global impact and opportunities of open education, provide a forum to identify shared strategic interests and work towards a more integrated Scottish approach to openness in education.

“UNESCO believes that universal access to high quality education is key to the building of peace, sustainable social and economic development, and intercultural dialogue. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.”

I hope the gathering  will decide that we must have some simple policy drivers in Scotland to encourage individual and institutional open sharing , re-purposing and re-use of learning materials . The right decisions here will lay the foundations for lifelong learning in Scotland for generations to come.

Ultimately I think this will take some firm leadership and some political decision making.
 It has taken some mandating in other countries to make open and shared the norm.

I am very grateful to my colleagues at CETIS and the membership of the Association for Learning Technology for making this gathering possible 

Six Months of Programming and MooC'ing around

In between real work I've been doing less blogging over last six months some of the time I have been doing a wee bit to support a range of initiatives in computer programming and coding domains. I also spent some time - usually in the wee small hours having a shot at some massive open on-line courses. I feed these experiences back into the day job as Head of New Ventures.

In programming space there are so many local , UK , global  offers in this space it can be quite hard to keep track on all of them.  They are all focused on learner and teacher engagement and around skill building.  Some are established global initiatives and some have more specific UK drivers - many are in response to the hiatus in England around GCSE  ICT/Computing space in the curriculum while  some others  focus more broadly on computational thinking for learners of any age.

Since Christmas SQA  have given bits of support to

One Day Digital 
Coder Dojo
Space Apps Challenge
Kodu Cup
Apps for Good

A bit of support might be as simple as using our networks to raise awareness of a specific initiative . In case anyone else is reading this and assuming SQA event sponsorship.

It would be useful if someone tried to capture all of these initiatives open to Scottish teachers and learners in one place. Perhaps a mission for either Computing at School or Comped.net or for somewhere in GLOW

I also had a go at three MOOCs and dropped out of all of them . I enjoyed the Mozilla Mooc best of all . I like re-mixing content but doing it in wee small hours was taking a toll on me - liked the Mona-Lisa Shining mix was how I was starting to feel after all the late nights - the shining bit rather than Mone Lisa-ish bit

I had a go at using Mozilla Popcorn to remix things - my feeble effort is here

But I was blown away this week by this creation from the Edinburgh University Digital Creations MOOC

Thursday, May 16, 2013

#Teachtheweb Homework

Thanks to a template for introductions I remixed this in about an hour with some of my
own bits and bobs . I could not work out out to end session - so there is a lot of white noise at the end of this . But overall what an easy tool to use -

I think anyone could have a lot of fun with these tools  https://popcorn.webmaker.org/

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

#teachtheweb RSA Animate - The Power of Networks

I am having a shot at the Mozilla #Teachtheweb massive open on-line course. A large part of this is simply about learning through networks . A colleague from Canada reminded me about this excellent video from the Royal Academy of Arts in London . It makes a great intellectual argument around why teachers need personal learning networks - in fact folks in every occupation need this kind of globally connected network

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

#OER13 Open Access Explained!

The video below begins to explain open access in academic research but #OER is also about open access to learning and teaching materials.

I have been championing the sharing of learning materials since I came into the teaching profession. Here are some thoughts from a year ago.

I am delighted this year to be on the organising committee of #OER13.

 If you want to find out what you need to do to engage with #OER as an individual , as a teacher , as a learner or as an institution or public body based in UK or internationally then #oer13 is the place to be.

The keynotes are here http://www.ucel.ac.uk/oer13/keynotes.html .
The programme is here http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer13/prog/

I hope I can tempt more teachers, lecturers and policy makers in Scotland to engage in this global debate.
Look forward to seeing you in Nottingham 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Glen Coe and a Week's Leave

P2130075 by joecar80
P2130075, a photo by joecar80 on Flickr.

Can't really believe all the things we packed in to the February Mid-Term, just as well I am getting back to work tomorrow.

Here is Glen Coe on Wednesday evening just as road was about to close and we snuck through on our way back to Glasgow.

Hard to believe we had just enjoyed three dry and mild days walking on Skye

Monday, February 04, 2013

#Bett13 The Excel London Docklands 2013

A week's worth of meetings crammed into three days in and around BETT13.  I liked the new venue for its space and for all the other presentations that were able to run simultaneously.
 Well done orgnanisers  for building an excellent programme around the exhibition area and reaching out to the right folks to populate the programme. I joined the Education Leaders Strand , The Workbased Learning Strand and the Higher Education Strand for different sessions and managed a couple of keynotes in the main learning arena. In past years I felt  guilty about buying tickets and not being able due to meetings to get to all the sessions I had booked.

The meeting rooms were also really useful I was able to grab a welcome cup of tea and a natter with colleagues from Mirandanet who were running an excellent programme . The British Computer Society and others had also booked some of the meeting rooms which meant we could do business on site. I was able to catch up with Adobe , Microsoft , Google , Oracle and many others and headed north with lots of ideas and business.

The bits I was not sure about were really down to me . I opted to stay over in Greenwich as the hotels were a bit cheaper than those around the Excel. This meant I was constantly worried that I would miss the last light rail train across the Thames. I think next time I will go for something on the north bank. It also took me some time to get my bearings to confidently navigate the light rail. The night of Bett Awards the line I needed was closed and I ended up stomping along under the tracks looking for a taxi.
I missed too my familiar bolt holes around Olympia where I can take folks for meetings without paying conference venue prices for coffee or lunch. I need to improve my east end knowledge.

It was really quite eye opening to spend time in this bit of London. It did really feel like a boom town rather than a city in a country climbing out or the worst recession since the 1930's . There seemed to be new developments going up all over the place. I am sure it will have made a very good impression on all of the international visitors to the event.

I looked really hard but I don't think there was anything startling new at this year's Bett - the event misses the ministerial input that Bett's of old used to have. But I think this is just a reflection of ICT feeling less of a priority for the current Westminster government. It is now about schools and learning institutions negotiating their own way through all of the offerings from the vendors. There were lots of 'new' systems that were really virtual learning environments with some elements of social software added. I think every third stand mentioned the word app somewhere. So not as much on policy or technology front as in previous years.

I think we still have an opportunity to present a much more joined up picture of all the good things that go on in Scottish Education at this event. It would be great if Education Scotland , SQA and Skills Development Scotland looked at having a stand at a future event. There are still too many speeches and sales pitches based on false claims of a UK Education system .. which are really only trying to sell bits of the English system to international customers and often bits that we do much better  in Scotland.


#applesummit London

Apple Education Leaders Summit

Apple Education Leaders Summit

I am really privileged to get to these gatherings . We are all learners in this space and in think the price of a pass is sharing what I learn

  1. iPads are lovely . I have one . Everyone at this event got one when they arrived for the day , loaded too with all kinds of wonderful educational apps.  It is a whole world made by apple from iPhone to iPad and presented by Appletv enabled monitors. 

     If you don't know the ESSA academy story you should have a look out for it , it is an inspirational story of how a school moved to an Internet enabled device for every learner and radically changed their performance and the ethos of the school. But equally you should have a look at the Islay High School story or lots of other places where learners now have access to devices and learning and delivery are changing.

     It was good to see Scotland's mobile pilots and the work of Cedars School featured in presentations. I've seen lots of inspirational things as ever . I'll add a wee list of apps that I have seen in action at the end of this post when I get some more time. The thing that struck me most is still with me at the end of the day 500+ educators were handed an ipad this morning fully internet enabled but there has been really very little collaborative learning or sharing around event . Well done apple for great event . Next time give everyone who attends a challenge or a question and get them all to have made a blog post or some other contribution to learning by the end of the day . Use of these tools has to be active not a passive consuming experience.
  2. Apple Education Leaders Summit London is there a hashtag for this event or is this unstructured learning ?
  3. Apple Leaders Summit ipad study from Hull Uni on Scottish schools ipad pilot gets plug  http://www2.hull.ac.uk/ifl/ipadresearchinschools.aspx uk/ifl/ipadresearchinschools.aspx
  4. #applesummit Interesting that every session has repeated content ... Apple TV + explain everything + Dropbox + Nearpod + iMovie Hmm.
  5. And to the apps and software used with apple devices - Drop Box to share things in cloud , Nearpod to share things between devices and onto data projector in classroom , Annotate.neu to give capture and record oral feedback on assessments , Explain Everything , Evernote and some other solutions used as eportfolios and more
    Apple launches too new Educational publications platform BBC News - Apple launches e-textbook tools with new iBooks bbc.in/xnziOg ; showcased new education bookstore books from usual suspects

Saturday, January 19, 2013

E-Assessment Question , #InsideLearning and #GlowRoadshow

For learners,  and I am one, learning is a lifelong continuum . I still think though that those who deliver learning and the accreditation of learning still live in silos,  worse some of them have stopped learning.

At the E-Assessment Question, an excellent event in Leeds,  I presented to an audience where there was a confident inevitability that most things one way or another will be assessed on-line in the near future. In work based learning this will happen in next 3 years,  in College space I predict this will happen in the next five years in schools space mmm ? If it does not happen and it is not driven by schools then it will be driven by forces outside of the school system and directly to learners. You can see the big commercial interests circling.

Universities need to wake up too. They are still too inflexible. It is neither the most intelligent nor the strongest that survive but those most adaptable to change . Directors of Jessops , Blockbuster and HMV did not adapt.

In Scotland we are really lucky that we are able to push at all the boundaries associated with changing current modes of assessment. The drive in England back to paper and pencil and exam based assessment is as much to do with a false belief in some golden era of academic standards as it is to do with trying to discourage sharp practices from commercially driven awarding bodies along with a complete lack of trust in schools and school teachers. It really is a dreadful situation and I feel for many of those trying to innovate in this environment. I fear too that many of those who have been innovating in this space will simply give up trying to operate in the fragmented English schools system.

When I use that "assessed" word I mean the means of gathering evidence and the means to gain accreditation will be on-line and not that everything will be assessed by on-line multiple choice questions.  Which is common misconception about e-assessment.

But we have much to do too in Scotland - some of the comments from the panel at Inside Learning were just depressing . It would be awful to believe that schools start preparing learners for external examinations from 1st year of secondary school . It is awful too that some folks with experience of the system can't , don't or won't see that what is chosen to be assessed is often simply a reflection of what they choose to make important.  I think too conversations about what is important is still too top down. I hope my children get asked what they want to learn today - to pinch an old advertising slogan. I know the assessment and accreditation system can cope with this and I am sure that schools and teachers can too. To the student teachers who were along on the night one of the best things you can do for your professional development is to become a marker or assessor for SQA,  having an understanding of the system will help you change it.
And sign up for a relevant massive open on-line course to see how things are changing.

I am writing this on a Saturday morning where 120 teachers from around Glasgow and the surrounding areas have turned up to take part in a Glow Road Show  in their own time . I know they are really up for change and I hope they know that they really can change things.

There are big opportunities to change thinking in the assessment space and there are huge affordances that technology will bring to learners and this means different ways of assessing and accrediting folk at a national level. I am really hopeful that this is going to start happening with the new awards at National 4 .

I hope folks in school sector learn about how things are delivered , assessed and accredited in the College and work based sectors it will give them more confidence to change things

I am massively optimistic for learners and learning . Change,  it is a coming .

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Reflections and Predictions

thanks to  littleperson1832 for image

Last year's predictions were among others that  that "flipped classroom" would become the bullshit bingo word of the year Well I think it came to pass .

I heard it used by number of  touring educational gurus , senior educational managers and academics usually from the lectern or from the stage during  keynotes where no effort was really made to engage the audience. It would be good to get  a greater sense of a flipped classroom at some of the big keynote events like BETT in England or SLF in Scotland. There is still too an attitude that change and innovation comes from above and not from within organisations. Gurus should be setting audiences challenges not coming along with their own stock answers ..I think this was apparent this year in the political domain too across the UK but enough said on that.

It was the year too of the tablet - and they are marvellous and miraculous devices for consuming things . I think they are still challenged when it comes to creating and producing things.

So what to look forward too

1. I think Mozilla Badges and the impact of smaller chunks of assessment. particularly in the computing and coding areas will really support both staff development and learners. It works well in areas like webdesign as the infrastructure is there to support learners.  Have a look at the Mozilla Webmaker tools and badges

We are well positioned to support these in schools , colleges and work-based learning. Our policy in terms of accreditation of prior learning is well developed. I am hoping this helps speed up the adoption of initiatives like this across Scottish education and beyond.  I look forward to pushing this on with Sunny Lee and Doug Belshaw  (Check out Doug's badges on his blog)

2. Is a MOOC a Massive Open On-line Course or a Massively Optimistic Over-Hyped Course ? - Time will tell.   I believe that where the providers of MOOCS make their content open rather use  these as marketing windows or discounted ways to gain accreditation then they will become game changers - as folks will use the content in other useful ways. If the content was open then learners could really see what was involved in a particular course before signing up to it . School teachers could use chunks of learning for their own development and  use these with their students. School students could engage with open material directly. In many workplaces they will  become part of continuous professional development.

I like the optimism and the sense of discovery that surround these programmes.

It is easy to forget that learning is all about a sense of optimism and discovery - it is what spurs learning on.

It also needs to be valued and nurtured - whether it is  happening in a nursery class or with adult and community learners. However humble the learning - the sense of discovery is magical.

3. Open Content is the way ahead . It has been great to share the journey of JORUM over the last 10 years ( If it's inception is taken as the early discussions at the JISC Joint Committee for the Information Environment ) We have a real opportunity to push this on in Scotland through Scotland's Colleges Resource and I hope through the future iteration of GLOW. Ubiquitous and available learning is an important part of the Scottish learning tradition and we need to embrace OER. 

But we do need more policy drivers in this space and I hope through working with the Association for Learning Technology in Scotland we can get these. It would be great if this was the year that the Scottish Government , The Scottish Funding Council and all the educational agencies in Scotland , including my own  could make a commitment to Open Educational Resources. This would support College Regionalisation  break down the local authority silos in schools and almost above all encourage Higher Education to stop pontificating on what happens in schools ,  colleges and work-based learning and encourage them to contribute by sharing  more learning materials.

4. Will Higher Education in Scotland start working with rest of the education system ?  I have high hopes that this might be the year. We've done the right thing in giving HE some more resource over last few years and they occupy a position envied by many in rest of UK . If they opened up a bit more Universities could really support learning across Scotland and beyond. I think a special mention to Edinburgh University for leading charge on joining Coursera but these on-line courses don't come with open educational resources.

Hope that is enough food for thought and may you have a happy and prosperous 2013 when it arrives.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gun Law - Better to Shoot with Words

I don't often use my blog to tell stories. I hope one day my gun mad six year old son reads this. 
At the moment he is with the Arizona gun lobby who wish to arm teachers discretely and at a discount so they can fight back when their schools are attacked.
Ideally, he would like the six year olds to have guns too.

In around 1990 I spent my first holiday in Washington DC.  I had a great trip but while I was there two 14 year old boys shot each other in a school changing room. It was all over the local media but such a frequent occurrence it was not picked up by the national media. It was a school in a poor predominantly black area where gun crime and gang fighting was endemic, apparently. The media focus was on the school janitors and their lax use of the school metal detectors which had allowed the two boys to bring hand guns into the school. The school district and the janitors looked like they were going to be sued for negligence.

All this was very alien to me. .and I'd been teaching for five years in Glasgow.

It happened that evening I was meeting some distant relatives who were the offspring of my grandfather's wee sister who moved over to the states from Ibrox at the end of WW1. They were a really nice, socially aware, academic couple, proud of their Scottish heritage, who had done well and were running impressive chunks of the Smithsonian. In lots of ways they seemed the same as me, further on in their careers but battling away in that middling educational way to make the world a better place.

Half way through a highly enjoyable meal I asked why no-one in the media had really queried why it was illegal but easy for fourteen year olds to access firearms.

Politely, the gulf in our two cultures suddenly opened up.

Guns were important for protection. I came from a more peaceful part of the world and did not appreciate this. I struggled when I was told that they had a lot of guns and the  licences for them. Indeed, as we sat in the smart diner on the Potomac I was told that they had a piece in her pocket book to deter muggers and at home in a posh suburb of Washington they had among their arsenal an assault rifle which was needed, as it could shoot through the engine block of a truck. The assault rifle was protection against domestic ram raiding which had recently reached epidemic proportions.

The conversation moved on. 
As I moved unarmed back to my digs in Georgetown along the streets that seemed a bit meaner I thought these really nice folk were under siege . The ready availability of guns which they prized as a symbol of their freedom did not seem to give them or their children the liberty they sought.

I hope following this weekend's events it gets harder to access firearms in the USA and no more six year olds need to die.