Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Qualification Support Team for NC/NPA awards meets

The QST for the NC/NPA awards met yesterday afternoon for the first time. There was a great turn-out with almost 20 people attending, representing schools, colleges and the workplace. The QST is responsible for National Certificate, PC Passport and other NPA awards.

Since it was the committee's inaugural meeting, we spent most of the time explaining the changes that have taken place to these awards but future meetings will be more interactive.

The purpose of the QST is to represent centres and let me know what changes you'd like to see or what support materials you need. It also considers feedback from centres, so if you ever write to me with suggestions, it's the QST that will consider them.

Although we're not looking for more members right now, contact Angela if you're interested in serving on the committee at some future date.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Decline in IT students threatens UK success

College consortium to develop NC materials

I've just heard that a number of colleges have got together to form a consortium to develop teaching and learning material to support a number of units within the new NC programmes.

Please note that this is not an SQA project. The initiative is being led by Mike Jannetta of Glasgow Met. So contact Mike if you want more information.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Assessment lecture

I attended an early morning lecture on assessment in Edinburgh today. Professor Dylan Wiliam of the University of London gave a Masterclass on the role of assessment in the education system. It was a fascinating talk from one of the worlds leading experts on assessment theory.

During my recent secondment, I produced a paper on Assessment 2.0 [PDF], which described how we can use Web 2.0 technologies to generate evidence for assessment. It would be interesting to know how practitioners are responding to Web 2.0 and if/how you are using these tools in the assessment process.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Computing uptake meeting

I attended a meeting at Jordanhill College yesterday afternoon about encouraging school pupils to choose Computing as a subject. This meeting was a follow-up to a two day workshop in May (that I did not attend).

The meeting was chaired by Andrew McGettrick (Strathclyde University) and there were representatives of various universities (including Glasgow and Edinburgh) and national organisations (including Learning & Teaching Scotland).

We had a fascinating discussion about various aspects of the issue and agreed a number of action points, including a response to the current consultation on A Curriculum for Excellence, to ensure the subject (and the whole "digital world") is properly recognised.

I was keen to attend this meeting since uptake in Computing/IT at school has a knock-on effect at college, and I am aware of concerns about falling uptake of HNC/D Computing.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

HN Graded Unit Exams

Today I met with Bobby to give an update on the current status of Exam Graded Unit production for 2008. These are well underway and within our original project timescale. We are producing 9 exemplars in total - Computing (x 3), Information Technology (x 3) and Interactive Multimedia Creation (x 3). These will be in addition to the existing bank of exemplar exam materials currently available.

These will be available for download from the SQA secure website from December 2007.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

PC Passport Assessment Support Packs (ASPs)

I have been receiving enquiries relating to the PC Passport ASPs, in particular, when will they appear on the SQA secure site?

We are working closely with our in-house publications team to turn these materials around as quickly as possible. Priority has been given to Beginner & Intermediate levels (School & College versions) with Workbased versions for all levels to follow soon after.

My colleagues within publications have informed me that some of the packs should start to appear on the secure website within the next 7-10 days.

Access to this material is through your SQA Centre Co-ordinator.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Great Scottish Run

Sorry for posting a personal message on the blog, and I promise not to make a habit of it, but I'm running in the Great Scottish Run (half marathon) on 2 September on behalf of Cancer Research and I'm looking for sponsors. You can donate/sponsor me online here. We have an ambitious target (£1,500) and any amount would be appreciated.

Friday, 17 August 2007

National Certificate update

I've recently received a number of e-mails and phone calls about the support materials for the new National Certificate awards.

Although the Arrangements and the unit specifications are all available, the assessment support packs (ASPs) are not yet published and some centres want to see these as soon as possible.

I've checked with SQA Publications and the ASPs will begin to appear on SQA Secure from the end of this month, so centres won't have long to wait. But, if you're desperate to see the assessments, you can contact Laura who will send draft versions of the material (for some of the units).

Sorry for delay in making these materials available. While you're waiting, you may want to subscribe to the dedicated NC Digital Media Computing online community.

Monday, 13 August 2007

HNC Interactive Media update

Angela and I met with the convener of the validation panel and a representative of the Qualification Design Team to lift the conditions that were set at the validation event for this award in June. The meeting went well and all of the conditions and recommendations were lifted, meaning that this award is now validated.

The one outstanding issue relates to the Graded Unit (GU). The GU will be an examination and we had an interesting discussion around pass marks, format, duration and cognitive demands. We agreed a number of changes that, I think, will help candidates (for example, there will not be separate pass marks for each section in the paper).

I appreciate that some centres plan to introduce this award this coming session and we will prioritise the task of "operationalising" the qualification i.e. making it available to centres. I expect it to be finalised by the end of this week. In the meantime, contact Angela if you want a copy of the VPD or draft versions of the unit specifications.

There is a dedicated online group to support centres that offer this award. Please visit the group's homepage and join the group if you want to keep up to date with developments.

Friday, 10 August 2007

More media reports about Internet safety

Several of today's newspapers carried stories about a government report on the dangers of using the Internet, describing the current situation as "the Wild West".

There's no doubt that concerns about Internet safety are growing... so I hope that many centres offer the new Internet Safety qualification. I've received lots of inquiries from prospective students over the summer, asking what centres offer the award. Many enquirers were particularly interested in doing the unit flexibly, either at home or online. Our support materials are entirely self-contained so most centres should be able to accommodate such requests simply by using the material that we supply.

Contact Caroline for further information.

Digital Divide report

I've just finished reading a report [PDF] from Futurelab about the digital divide in the UK. It makes interesting reading. If you manage to find the time to read it, I'd be interested in your comments.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Core Skill news

I attended a meeting this morning, which included an update from Gill MacFarlane about the current review of core skills. The core skill team in SQA has been consulting about the existing core skill framework with a view to updating it. The IT framework is badly in need of an update.

The framework is in the final stages of being revised and the new version will be used to create new core skill units, which are due to be published in December. We're hoping that centres will offer the new units from August 2008.

Contact Gill (0845-213-5461) for more information.

Update on HNC Interactive Media

This new qualification replaces a number of Multimedia-related HN awards such as HNC Multimedia Web Development and HNC Interactive Multimedia Creation. It was validated in June but with a number of conditions, which the Qualification Development Team has been working on over the summer. They're just about there now, and me and the convener of the validation panel (Walter Patterson) meet on Monday (13th) to (hopefully) lift the conditions and get this award on the books.

It's likely to be a couple of weeks before everything is in place (assuming the conditions are lifted on Monday) but if you're planning on running this award this coming session and need to see something now then you can get the Validation Proposal Document from Laura.

I'll keep you posted on developments.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Welcome to Laura

Laura Hall started today, to replace Tony while he is seconded to a new post. Laura should be your first port of call for most routine information relating to Computing and IT. Laura can be contacted by e-mail or telephone (0845-213-5472). I'll update the organisation chart at the first opportunity.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Achievement and recruitment

I had lunch with Ron Dillin today. Ron and I were colleagues at Stow College in the early Nineties and it was good to catch up with things... and Ron's views are always sensible and thought-provoking.

We spent most of the time discussing issues facing FE Computing departments - particularly recruitment and student achievement (historically poor in this subject area). He also reminded me of the gender imbalance in Computing courses (typically, 10% of students are women).

We discussed at some length what could be done about these problems. I was particularly interested to know what SQA could do to help things. I plan to arrange a Head of Computing meeting later this year and it seems worthwhile to include these issues on the agenda.

These problems are not unique to FE. HE has the same issues (Ron gave the example of a university Computing Science department receiving 60% fewer applications last year than in 2003). But maybe we can put our heads together and do something to help things.