Thursday, 26 November 2009

New teachers' group

I attended a meeting this morning at the Marriot Hotel in Glasgow to meet with David Coull, of Mintlaw Academy, who is trying to get a new association off the ground.

David has recently formed the Scottish Institute of Computing Educationalists (SIOCE) with the aim of supporting the teaching of computing across all educational sectors - school, college and university. Although it only started in May, it already has over 200 members and several universities have promised to support it. David is planning an FE recruitment drive in January so look out for more information around that time. At present, there is no membership fee.

I can see a role for SIOCE on Sector Panels and Qualification Support Teams, and, of course, it would be an important organisation to consult with when we develop new awards.

You can find out more about SIOCE here or contact David directly.

And speaking of support for Computing teachers, Heriot-Watt University is hosting an event next June entitled Look to the Future, which is intended for Scottish computing educators. The event is part-supported by Google. More here.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Meeting with HMIe

I met with Iain Lowson, of HMIe, today. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how SQA could respond to the recent Aspect report [PDF] on Computing within FE.

I agreed to take forward two things as a result of the meeting: (1) advice to centres about the teaching of programming; and (2) advice to centres about the use of portfolios.

Programming remains a problem in FE. Some centres use advanced languages to teach the principles of programming, such as C++, which the students find difficult to understand. So I agreed to look at how languages such as Scratch could be used within National Certificate (NC) programmes.

The report also mentioned how assessment can sometimes drive learning. We discussed how portfolio building could be a more natural way of generating evidence of assessment, rather than several short assessments. I agreed to look at ways of using portfolios within the NC awards. Some kind of digital portfolio (using Web 2.0 tools or e-portfolio products) would be the focus of attention.

If/when I am given the green light to take forward these suggestions, I will ask for volunteers on the SQA Groupsite, so don't forget to subscribe.

The Aspect report features prominently in next Friday's (4 December) Heads of Computing event in Glasgow. There are still places available if you want to attend. You can register here.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Digital Literacy

I went along to a presentation by Vanessa Ranaldi this afternoon about Microsoft's Digital Literacy curriculum. Vanessa is a certified Microsoft trainer. Vanessa explained how Microsoft goes about updating its courses, particularly how it produces assessment questions. The Digital Literacy course uses objective testing. The updated course should be available from January 2010.

We currently cover the Microsoft curriculum through out NPA in Digital Literacy (SCQF 3) [PDF] that we developed in 2007. But we will have to update this next year when the new MS material becomes available.

SQA's Digital Literacy award is popular in schools and colleges as a basic introduction to ICT. Contact Hilary if you want to know more about it.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

SQA Groupsite is growing

To date, 77 people have subscribed to the SQA Groupsite, and me and my team have begun to use it to find people to carry out (paid) work for SQA. For example, Caroline recently requested volunteers to write assessment exemplars for a couple of Graded Units, and she got a quick and helpful response from several people on the group. The purpose of the group is to be as transparent as possible in the way we notify and allocate work.

So, if you haven't yet subscribed to the group, and you are interested in working with SQA in a variety of roles, please join. It would be great to have 100 members by Christmas.

If you have already joined the group, please update your profile. The more information you provide the better chance you have of being selected for some of the projects.

But don't worry if you have no or little experience in curriculum development. I appreciate that we all have to start somewhere and we will deliberately select "new blood" from time to time.

Friday, 6 November 2009

HNC/D Computer Games Development QDT

The Qualification Development Team for HNC/D Computer Games Development met this morning to discuss how things are going with that project.

The team are busy finalising units right now and also consulting with organisations such as Skillset and E-Skills, so it's a very busy time for the team.

Things are progressing reasonably well but it looks like our original target date of January 2010 will not be acheived, with a date of around March 2010 now more likely.

The good news is that the course is shaping up really well with some interesting sounding units on game design, game play and game physics.

This development is being led by Nigel Kennington, who would be happy to hear from you.

Monday, 2 November 2009

OfQual audit of Internet Safety

Auditors from OfQual visit SQA today to look at the awards we offer in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. One of these is Internet Safety. As part of my preparations for this audit, I have been revisiting the contents of the qualification and the support materials available to centres.

Internet Safety was SQA's first "e-qualification" and, as such, is very well supported with digital teaching, learning and assessment materials. The entire course can be delivered online but I had forgotten that we also developed teaching and learning materials for delivery on a mobile phone. At the time when we created a mobile version (around two years ago), the available technology was pretty poor but I recently checked the mobile version on my Google Android phone and it looks great on modern smartphones. The high quality screens and better HTML rendering makes these sorts of devices really viable e-learning platforms. There is also a comprehensive bank of online questions that can be used to assess this unit - so the whole thing can be offered to pupils and students very painlessly.

Although the uptake of Internet Safety is good, there is room for growth. Some Scottish schools offer it to entire years groups (for example, Airdrie Academy and The High School of Glasgow offer it to every pupil in S2) and I have wondered why this is not standard across all schools given the importance of online child protection.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about Internet Safety.
Loraine Johnston of James Watt College would like to speak to Centres who are currently delivering the HNC & HND Information Technology courses. She is looking for supporting evidence to justify delivering these courses, therefore any examples of good practice and advice would be welcome.
Please contact her at or 01294 559000 ext 3036.
Loraine Johnston
Senior Lecturer – Business & Computing
James Watt College of Further & Higher Education