Thursday, 24 June 2010

Cisco meeting

After the recent meeting at Central College, I said that I would convene a meeting of interested people to take forward the links between SQA units and Cisco's CCNA curriculum. That meeting took place this morning. Eight representatives of colleges attended, including Anniesland, Central, Adam Smith, Cardonald, Angus and Stow colleges.

It was a productive meeting. We agreed to write four new units, with the same titles as the existing units, to reflect the changes to the Cisco course. We're hoping to have the updated units completed by Spring 2011 for introduction in August 2011. In the meantime, the existing credit transfer arrangement would continue. It's unfortunate that this development can't proceed in step with the wider HN review but centres need the revised units ASAP.

We hope to write them in a generic way so that the units are not tied to a specific vendor, while making them compatible with industry standards.  We also agreed that HN units needed to have academic value and should provide transferable skills that can be adapted to meet future developments.

Contact Caroline if you have questions about this project.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

HNC/D Computing/Networking review: call for QDT members

At the recent HN consultation meeting, I said that the next stage in the process would be to form a Qualification Design Team (QDT).

We've already had several volunteers but please contact Caroline if you want to be considered for membership of this team. We'll ask you to complete a short form and, on the basis of this, will make a decision about membership using defined criteria.

I hope to convene the initial meeting of the QDT in the near future so please apply soon.

Monday, 21 June 2010

HNC/D Computer Games Development - Exemplar Production

We are about to commence exemplar writing for many of the HN Units within the new HNC/D Computer Games Development awards.

We have a dedicated team (Support Materials Department) to project manage the production of these exemplars. They are hosting a training session tomorrow for all writers and vetters involved in the exemplar production. The writing process will commence once training has been completed.

The following packs will be produced to support both the HNC & HND:

Computer Games: Graded Unit 1
Computer Games: Graded Unit 2
Games Development: Object Oriented Programming
Game Technology
Structured Programming for Games
2D Animation
3D Level Editing
3D Modelling and Animation
Game Customisation and Scripting
Mathematics: Calculus and Matrices for Computing
Game Design Theory
Game Design: Pitch to Treatment
Games Development: Character Creation and Storytelling
History, Evolution and Impact of Computer Games

We aim to have all packs available to centres by October 2010.

The Internet in context

We try to keep this blog opinion-free (well, free of the opinions of the Computing team -- your opinions are welcome) but I came across this article about the Internet in yesterday's Observer, which I thought was interesting and relevant to educationalists. It puts the Internet into some sort of historical context -- and concludes that we're just at the start of the revolution.

Speaking of the "revolution", you can add the SQA Drop to your Twitter or RSS feeds here (select the "Share" button).

Friday, 18 June 2010

Launch event for HNC/D Computer Games Development

The launch event for the new HNC/D Computer Games Development awards was held today in the Stirling Highland Hotel. Twenty five people attended, representing around 20 centres.

Launch events are always a pleasure. They come at the end of a long development process and they tend to be something of a celebration -- and today's sunshine and lovely location added to the nice atmosphere. As well as introducing the awards to the audience, we also took the opportunity to ask some students along to showcase their work, which was great to see.

We recently validated new NPAs in this area, and Forth Valley College is developing a new NC award so we asked Julie (NPAs) and Fiona (NC) to introduce their awards. It was great to see this family of awards begin to come together.

Contact Caroline for more information about HNC/D Computer Games Development.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Look to the Future conference

I attended a conference "for computing educators" at Heriot Watt University on Friday. The event was sponsored by Google and was designed for Computing teachers within Scottish schools. The agenda covered such things as the Curriculum for Excellence, computer games, the future of computing, and Scholar.

The keynote speech was particularly interesting. Entitled Unlocking the Clubhouse, it was about the problem of attracting women to the subject. Allan Fisher (Carnegie Mellon University) and Jane Margolis (UCLA) gave the talk. The speakers gave some statistics on the poor (and declining) uptake of women in Computer Science courses in the US, and also proposed some reasons for this - the main one being the low confidence of women who undertook these courses. They also argued that the culture in many Schools of Computer Science was not female-friendly.

Of course, Scotland has the same problem with female uptake - in every sector: school, college and university. The Curriculum for Excellence and the soon-to-start HN review give us another opportunity to address this problem. Allan Fisher pointed out that there was "no golden bullet" to solve this problem but urged us to keep trying.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

National Certificate in Computer Games

I attended the first meeting of the Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the proposed NC in Computer Games this morning.

This is a centre-led development. The idea came from Forth Valley College and the development is being led by Fiona Jackson of the college. SQA takes a back-seat in this sort of development but provides funding and support when needed.

Both Hilary and me attended this morning's meeting to offer whatever help we could. The meeting went well and the QDT is planning to create a fairly generic award with lots of options to permit students to begin specialisation in one of a number of areas (such as programming or creative arts or animation).

The aim is to create a Level 5 award that would permit students to progress to one of a number of HN awards. The team hope to have the new award available by July 2011. The award would include the new NPAs in Computer Games Development and articulate with the new HNC/D Computer Games Development, among other potential progression paths.

Contact Fiona for more information about this development. Contact Hilary about the new NPAs and contact Caroline about the new HN awards.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Qualification Support Team for NC/NPA awards

There are QSTs for advanced (HN/PDA) and non-advanced (NC/NPA) awards, each of which meets twice per year. There was a QST meeting this afternoon for the non-advanced awards.

The purpose of a QST is to support qualifications by suggesting how SQA (or other national agencies) can provide assistance to centres in the form of advice or support materials or other forms of assistance.

We gets lots of suggestions about how we can improve qualifications or support materials and every idea is considered by the QST. Most are approved. For example, we had a couple of comments about the complexity of one of the outcomes in PC Passport at SCQF Level 6 and we agreed to review this with a view to simplifying it.

We're happy to consider any request. But we do ask that each request is provided in a specific format to ensure that we have all the information we need in order to make an informed decision. So, if you have any ideas about how we can improve qualifications or provide additional support, please complete this form.

Contact Hilary for more information about the QST for NC/NPAs and contact Caroline for the QST for HN/PDAs.

Monday, 7 June 2010

HN review consultation event

The consultation event for HNC/D Computing and HNC/D Networking took place on Friday at Jury's Inn in Glasgow. There was an excellent turn-out with over 50 people attending, representing 25 colleges.

I thought that the event went very well. It was meant to be more than SQA "talking at" the audience since I wanted feedback on the best way forward. We provided various options for change and I was delighted that there was a clear preference for one of the options.

A clear majority wanted a common HNC leading to distinct HNDs. The HNDs would include Software Development, Technical Support, and Computer Networking. The audience were split on the question of whether there should be a generic HND Computing award too.

The next stage is to form a Qualification Development Team. We hope to do this as soon as possible so that we can commence the development over the summer. Look out for more information about this on this blog in the near future.

If you attended Friday's event, it would be very helpful if you would spend five minutes completing a short event evaluation, which can be found here.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

20,000 hits

I noticed that the blog counter reached 20,000 hits this afternoon. Given that the counter was only set up 17 months ago, that an average of 1,200 hits per month or 60 hits per (working) day.

I sometimes get feedback that people are too busy to check the blog and, of course, it does take time to keep up with the blog -- although the RSS feed can be sent to your PC newsreader or your tablet computer or mobile phone so that you can read the updates at your leisure. The blog doesn't replace the traditional means of communication. We will continue to produce update letters and write to centres (sometimes via e-mail) whenever there is important news. So, you don't have to read the blog to keep up-to-date but it provides a level of immediacy and interaction that traditional media can't match.

And if you want even more information than the blog provides, you can follow us on Twitter too.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

PC Passport update

I received an enquiry this morning about the timescales for the updated PC Passport units and materials.

My update letter of September 2009 stated that the revised units would be ready for January. Although the updated units were indeed complete by that time, we weren't able to publish the new units because we also needed to update the associated support materials to avoid confusion in centres (i.e. new units and old materials). In fact, we realised that we had to update lots of things -- including ASPs, online assessments, even the associated text books.

We're just about there now. The revised units will published in July, along with all of the associated support materials. The revised ASPs are not separated into "college" and "school" versions -- centres can use any version that they like.

Don't be alarmed by this. The "new" units are not new at all. In fact, we will not even renumber the units since they are essentially the same units with minor corrections and clarifications. This is not PC Passport version 3.0. It's PC Passport version 2.1.

If you are delivering the original (version 1) PC Passport units, these will not change (they have different numbers). But the "refreshed" (version 2) units will be replaced by these improved units. I will write to centres in the near future to fully explain the changes.

Contact Hilary for information about PC Passport.

Keep your ideas coming

We set up a website a couple of months ago to get your ideas and feedback so don't forget to use it. The URL is: