Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Operational plan for 2010/11

Like many of you, I have recently spent time on my operational plan for next year (April 2010 to March 2011). The main projects scheduled to begin next year are:
  • commence the review of HNC/D Computing
  • review HNC/D Computer Networking
  • launch HNC/D Computer Games Development
  • launch NPAs in Computer Games Development (at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6)
  • develop support materials for the refreshed PC Passport
  • develop new PDAs to match Adobe and CIW certification.
It would be good to know if there is anything missing from this list. Are there any other developments that we should consider for next year?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Vocational Computing awards

I recently updated the list of awards in my area. It's a handy simmary of vocational Computing qualifications (excluding SVQs) available (or about to be available) to centres.

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Save File: Computing Vocational Awards.doc

It can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Aspect report for Computing

I took time out this morning to go through the HMIe's report [PDF] into Computing in the college sector. It made interesting reading.

It's hard not to read a report like this from an individual perspective and, from an SQA angle, the report made pretty good reading. There were some kind words about the portfolio of Computing awards available to centres, and specifically the variety of awards and how up-to-date they are. It was nice to see this recognised since it represents a lot of hard work over a lot of years. There was also mention made of the efforts SQA is currently making, along with college representatives, to address some of the identified problems, such as assessment overload.

Of course, the report contains a great deal about teaching and learning, but there were many references to assessment that SQA needs to consider, including assessment load (still a problem), integration of assessment (linked to assessment burden), and formative assessment.

Formative assessment is particularly interesting. The report stated that it was little used and, when it was, it wasn't used very effectively. I think this is an area that SQA could work with centres to improve practice.

I'd be interested in your comments about the report.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

HMIe subject based report for Computing

As many of you will have noticed, HMIe has recently published a subject report for Computing. You can download it here [PDF].

This report will be the key topic in the forthcoming Heads of Computing event, on 4 December, so that you have an opportunity to discuss it with colleagues. In fact, the agenda for that day is shaping up very well, with lots of interesting topics, so I hope that you can make it along. If you can, you can register here.

In the meantime, I would be very interested in your reaction to the report, via the comment facilitity.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Reminder - Heads of Computing

There are still places available for the next Heads of Computing Event which is taking place on Friday 4th December 2009.

Please register online at the URL below if you have not already done so:

Friday, 16 October 2009

10,000 hits

The blog is about to reach it's first 10,000 hits since a counter was set-up last January. That's an average of just over 1,000 hits per month and an annual total of around 14,000 hits. It's not brilliant but it's OK. It would be much better if it was 1,000 unique visitors per month, rather than the number of page views. But it still represents a lot of Computing teachers and lecturers.

In my recent update letters, I stated that I planned to phase out the letters and use this blog to let people know what is going on in the vocational team in SQA. It takes time to maintain blogs and e-groups and other web services, and doing this as well as writing letters means me and my team are doing double the work. The online channels of communication are pretty well established now and it seems a good time (with 2010 around the corner) to begin to use them to replace older means of communication.

I'm often told that "it's easy" in my area to get people to use online communications. It's not. I can't say I have found Computing teachers to be any more or less receptive to web services than other other subject area. Using this blog instead of letters (for updates) and using the Groupsite instead of phonecalls (for job opportunities) might hasten the migration from old to new.

If you don't already do so, you might want to use a newsreader to keep up to date with this blog (and others, including podcasts). I use Google Reader, which I can highly recommend, but there are others. It's very simple to add a "feed" to a reader. Once you add a few feeds you don't have to "hunt the blogs" any more since the blogs come to your reader. It makes keeping up to date with specific blogs of interest very simple. Most blogs have a link to their feeds somewhere on the page (often at the bottom - like this one). And most modern phones have newsreaders built-in so you can check updates on your mobile.

So, here's hoping that this time next year I am reporting 1,000 visitors per month to this blog.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Online groups to support teachers

We've been using online groups for several years to support centres that deliver vocational Computing awards, using a range of (free) online services such as "E-Groups", "Yahoogroups" and "Smartgroups". As you probably know, we currently use Jiglu for most online groups.

The use of these groups has declined over the last few years. They were once vibrant, with hundreds of members and thousands of posts, but are much less active now.

As a result, we have cut back on the number of online groups that we support. The main public one are:

1. SQAComputing group on Yahoo (an announcement-only group)
2. Computing group on Jiglu (to support HNC/D Computing)
3. NCDMC group on Jiglu (to support NC Digital Media Computing)
4. PCPassort group on Jiglu (to support PC Passport).

Although their use has declined, these groups have tremendous potential to assist you if you teach one of the supported qualifications. They are a tremendous source of peer support (for example, asking for teaching materials) and SQA staff are members and can help too. It would be good if they were better used, so I hope that you join any appropriate group(s).

Now and again, I get an angry e-mail about the "poor support that SQA provides to these groups" when, for example, people want to leave them. These groups are not SQA groups. We do not host them and do not manage membership. It is up to each person to subscribe and unsubscribe as appropriate. Support should be sought from the service provider (such as Jiglu).

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

HNC/D Multimedia Awards

Now that the HNC/D Interactive Media awards are now available to centres, I thought I would remind you that the following HNC/D awards have a finish date of 31st July 2011 attached to them:

G7DD 15 HNC Multimedia Computing: Web Development
G7DE 16 HND Multimedia Computing: Web Development
G7DF 16 HND Multimedia Computing
G7A5 15 HNC Interactive Multimedia Creation
G7A6 16 HND Interactive Multimedia Creation

This means that candidates must be certificated by this cut-off date.

Update letters to centres

I recently sent two letters to all centres, one about NC developments and one about HN developments. You will find digital copies of the letters on the SQA Drop. They contain important information for teachers and lecturers so they are definitely worth downloading.

For those who have already read the letters, you might have noticed that I plan to phase out annual update letters since this blog contains all of that information -- and a lot more. It's very time consuming to maintain new and traditional forms of communication and the team already make extensive use of blogs, e-groups and other communication tools (such as Twitter). So, general letters to centres will go unless there is something really vital to tell you.

That's another reason to bookmark this site or, better still, add the feed to your newsreader.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Computing team update

There have been a few minor changes to the team's tasks and I updated the team organisation chart this morning.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

It's worth downloading and printing this document so that you contact the right person, which will save you a lot of time and mean that you get a faster response.

Don't forget to subscribe to the new Twitter feed for regular updates on developments and events.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Unit writing training

We held our first unit writers' training event yesterday afternoon in The Marriott Hotel in Glasgow. It went well. Twelve people attended.

The idea is that instead of training writers whenever a new development begins, we will run these training events two or three times per year and people will come along to one of these events when they need to.

There are several advantages. Firstly it's much more time efficient for the team -- instead of training two or three writers at a time we can train up to 20 people. Secondly, it permits people to attend training who are not actually writing units for SQA but want to update their skills in case they ever do get involved in unit writing. Around half of the people who attended yesterday's event are not currently writing units but wanted to attend the training anyway. The end result is that we should have a pool of people who have been recently trained in writing SQA units.

We will endorse everyone who attends this training on the SQA Groupsite, so that we know who has been trained. In time, we can require everyone who writes units for us to attend one of these events.

The next event is not yet scheduled but will take place sometime in early 2010. Please join the Groupsite if you want to keep up date with developments or contact Caroline if you wish to discuss unit writing training.

Monday, 5 October 2009

SQA Computing Groupsite

Some time ago, I posted a message about a new online service for people who are interested working with the SQA Computing team to develop curricula, such as write units, develop assessment packs or serve on Qualification Design Teams or validation panels.

So far, 49 people have subscribed to this service -- but the target is 100 so please consider subscribing. You can find out more here, where you can also join this group.

I plan to use this site as a one-stop-shop to let people know about training opportunities and also to let you know about the opportunities available to get involved in SQA's work. So please think about joining.