Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas party

We had our Christmas party yesterday. It began in the customary way, with a secret Santa in the office, before we headed off to the Merchant City for our Christmas lunch. Some of you may recognise Santa as the man who normally organises examinations in English.

There are a few sore heads today, but everyone made it in to the office. We stop this afternoon until Thursday, 5 January.

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog. Our readership has steadily grown over the years, and it is now one of the main channels of communication between SQA and centres. The team wish you a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Bobby, Caroline & Lois Hilary

Monday, 19 December 2011

NC Computing: Technical Support Arrangements

I noticed that the Arrangements for the new NC Computing: Technical Support are now available on the SQA website [PDF]. This qualification is offered at SCQF Levels 5 and 6.

This new NC award is more technical than existing NC qualifications (such as NC Digital Media Computing) and better suited to progression to the more technical HN awards (such as HNC/D Computer Networking).

This NC was developed by City of Glasgow College, with support from the NQGA team in SQA. Since I was not personally involved in the development, I was able to serve on the validation panel.

You can download the Arrangements for any of our NC or NPA awards here.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about any of these non-advanced awards, including the new Technical Support qualification.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Operational planning

The team met this morning to discuss our plans for 2012-13. Every year each team in the Qualifications Development Directorate creates an operational plan, which describes the qualifications that we plan to revise or create in the coming year. I know that colleges do something similar, which is why we have the Heads of Computing event around this time of the year to help you create your plans.

A number of awards are due their "quinquenial review". We try to review each qualification every five years. So, next year we will be looking at the National Certificate in Digital Media Computing, PC Passport, and HNC/D IT, among others. We also have some ideas for new qualifications. Of course, me and my team don't just dream up things and then proceed to develop them. Every development goes through a business case process, which ensures that we only spend time and money on qualifications that meet a real need.

We try to listen to what you want throughout the year, but if you have any ideas for new qualifications please contact me directly or leave a comment on this post.

Monday, 12 December 2011

HNC Computing validation

The validation event for the revised HNC Computing was held on Friday. The award was validated with some conditions. The development team was delighted with the outcome.

It was a good event and the new award will benefit from the Validation Panel's ideas. You can find out more about the validation event on the HN Review blog. Or contact Caroline for more information about the HN Review.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Awarding Body Forum

I attended one of the quarterly Awarding Body Forum meetings yesterday, which was held in the OCR offices in Coventry. It wasn't the best day for flying and my return flight into Glasgow featured in the national news. But I survived.

These meetings are attended by awarding bodies from all corners of the UK, such as OCR, EdExcel, and BCS. The meeting is chaired by Chris Morrow of E-Skills UK.

The agenda covered a range of topics such as ITQs in English schools and Modern Apprenticeships (MAs), which are particularly important for Scotland since we are in the process of updating the current IT User and IT Professional MAs. SQA will host a meeting about this in January.

England is a complex qualification sector, so these meetings are a good way for me to keep up to date with what's happening in the rest of the UK.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about SVQs or Modern Apprenticeships.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

NC Computer Games QDT

The third meeting of the QDT for the new NC in Computer Games Development, at SCQF Level 6, took place today. The aim of today's meeting was to brainstorm the contents of the new award. So there was lots of talking about the sort of things we want in the award.

I began the meeting by congratulating Frank Duffy, of Motherwell College, for being elected the Lead Developer for this project.

Of course, we don't have a blank piece of paper. There is a Level 5 award already in existence and, of course, this award should articulate with the HNC in Computer Games Development. But we had interesting debates about what should be in this award, core skills and other areas such as mathematics and business skills.

The team felt it important that the award is suitable for technical and creative students, and the framework should not create barriers to either group... so mandatory maths was out!

It was a good meeting. We finished by asking Frank to take away our ideas and turn them into an actual framework. Once the QDT agrees a framework we will carry out a public consultation. Watch this space for more information.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about this development.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Microsoft Partners in Learning Camp Scotland #pilgf #msftpil

We've been a partner with Microsoft since 2003 around vocational qualifications but for the last six years  this has included  learning and teaching development opportunities  through the superb programme that is Microsoft Partners in Learning

There are now three Microsoft Innovative Schools in Scotland

Calderglen High School in East Kilbride,
Stirling High School in Stirling
Tynecastle High School in Edinburgh.

It should not be a secret that the Microsoft Partners in Learning Programme offers Scottish Teachers the opportunity to network in Scotland , across the UK and internationally. Scottish Teachers do really well in competitions like the annual innovative teachers awards - success at UK level can lead to European and Global events. You can read some reports from the recent Global Forum in Washington DC from three of our delegates here

Ollie Bray  Is writing his usual  full account of proceedings
Ian Stuart  An epic with some great photographs
Tony McDaid  Some nice reflections from a Head Teacher

There are always opportunities to get involved - it is worth following the Partners in Learning Blog

In January you could meet some of the team in Scotland !

In January Calderglen High School is hosting a Microsoft Partners in Learning Teaching Camp

Camp Scotland 
After the great success of the last three Microsoft Partners in Learning Teacher Camps, we are taking the concept on the road (to Scotland) – this is an open invitation to all Teachers in Scotland. So if you want to spend time with other innovative educators, then this is an ideal event for you.
Camp Scotland takes place at Calderglen High School, starting 10:00am on Thursday 26th and finishing 4:00pm Friday 27th January 2012.

What will I be doing at  Camp Scotland?

We will give you training in using free Microsoft software to create teaching and learning resources for the classroom. You will have time to design, create and evaluate those resources and collaborate with others. You will also get the chance to speak to experts at Microsoft about our technology. In addition you will also be learning how to deliver the same training to colleagues in your own schools. These resources will take the form of screen capture videos, which we call Innovids. You can see examples of these on the Partners in Learning YouTube Channel –

How do I apply?

We don’t want videos or lengthy biographies from you, to apply for this free event, just email three tweet-esque type statements (140 characters or less) to ofrazer [at]  before the closing date  Friday 16th December. These statements should be ideas of how you would, or are using Microsoft technologies to support learning across the curriculum. For example:-
  • using conditional formatting in Excel to help visual learners in numeracy
  • using PowerPoint to create animated flicker books
  • using the Songsmith to create mobile ringtones
Also include details of your school, subject expertise and pupil age range in your application. We will select 25 applicants with the most intriguing and innovative ideas, who will be notified on Friday 13th January.
I am not an ICT teacher is it worth me applying?
Yes, most definitely, we are looking for classroom innovators in learning, rather than techie whizz kids. This event is targeted at those Teachers in Scotland interested in teaching and learning, and how technology can support that, rather than the technology itself. This event is for teachers in Primary, Secondary and Special school settings.
What will I need to bring?
We expect you to bring some of the tools you are using already:
  • a headset with a microphone or Headphones and a Microphone
  • a laptop running Windows Vista or Windows 7,
  • Office 2007 or 2010 (not essential)
  • You need to have installed and have working , Community Clips  -Freely available at
  • We will send you a list of tools to download and install when we confirm your attendance.
What will I be expected to do?
We hope that you will create two innovid resources. We will collect those resources and post them to our YouTube Channel and GLOW.
In return, we will offer you support if you wish to recreate this course in your school and you will receive a certificate welcoming you as a Partners in Learning Teacher, along with more ideas about how to enhance pupil’s learning through the use of technology.

Heads of Computing event

The Heads of Computing event was held on Friday (2 December) but I've not had the chance to update the blog since then.

These meetings have been taking place, every year, for a long time. I remember attending them when I was a Head of Department in the 1990's. Computing is one of the few subject areas to continue with these events but I think that they still serve a purpose since they, effectively, summarise what's been going on for the last 12 months - and what's coming down the line in the future. So, they're a great way to catch up, for busy people.

There was a good turn out on Friday. Fifty-four people attended, from 34 colleges, which represents very good coverage of the Scottish FE sector.

There are some standing items on the agenda, such as the Senior External Verifier's annual report, and my own presentation was a standing item too -- the qualification update, when me, Caroline and Hilary report on what's been developed over the last year and what we're currently working on.
The agenda was pretty varied with presentations about the teaching of Computer Games qualifications, an update on the online learning material that is available to centres, and a particularly interesting discussion about how colleges can work together. We also took the opportunity to update attendees on the HN Review.

All of the presentations from the day are available from Caroline. If you attended the event, please complete a short event evaluation survey to help us make next year's event better.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Appointment of VMware Cascade Centre

A communication went to all College Principals and Heads of Computing today -
Check with your SQA Coordinator for full  details.

The SQA  and VMware are seeking to appoint a national cascade centre for VMware - to work with SQA and VMware for three years in the first instance.

This is an opportunity to work directly with VMware and play a shaping
role in the development of VMware skills across Scottish Further Education
and the positioning of VMware Certification within the national
qualifications portfolio.

We are delighted to welcome VMware as a DIVA partner.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Second visit to JISC conference

I haven't managed to return to the JISC conference since Tuesday morning, but I caught the final keynote presentation this afternoon, which was given by Ewan McIntosh, whose blog is well known.

Ewan spoke about the eight challenges for educators. These included the use of jargon and how to design the curriculum. It was another wide ranging and interesting talk. I was particularly interested in his comments about our failure to really encourage life long learning (he pointed out that only 1% of adults in the UK have a PhD). He also questioned HE's real desire to change since so much of the present system suits the sector.

The entire conference was delivered through Blackboard. The keynotes were all delivered by video. Blackboard supports a range of tools to permit the audience to interact with the speaker, such as online voting, so there was a lot of interaction -- more interaction than you normally get at a "real" conference. I enjoyed the sessions that I attended every bit as much as I would have if I had been there in person. In fact, being online has advantages in that you can immediately check out things, such as references that a speaker provides.

Online learning has fantastic potential for continued professional development.

PDA in Website Design - Now Available

The PDA in Website Design at SCQF Level 7 is now available to centres.

The award consists of three single credits all at SCQF Level 7. The Units are:

FW5C 34 Website Design: Planning and Design
FW5D 34 Website Design: Multimedia Content Creation
FW5E 34 Website Design: Development Technologies

The new PDA is based on the official curriculum for the CIW Web Design Specialist (formally CIW Site Designer) qualification.

The Arrangements Document can be downloaded from there SQA website here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

vmware - Towards a Cacade centre

Over the last few months we have been in discussion with VMWare and we are delighted that they are going to become a DIVA Partner . We expect to get a communication out to Colleges before Christmas
to College Principal and Heads of Computing to consider working with SQA and VMWare as a national cascade centre.

 In partnership we hope to

·         Upskill staff in Colleges
·         Build capacity across Scotland to deliver  qualifications
·         Ensure that appropriate recognition is given for VMWare
·         Build a sustainable relationship with the global VMWARE community

Innovating in E-Learning 2011

I am attending a JISC conference this week, entitled Innovating in E-Learning. It's an online conference, which is ideal since this is a busy week for me and I could not have attended a "real" conference due to work commitments. But an online conference allows me to pop-in to the conference when I have time.

I "attended" today's keynote presentation by David Puttnam entitled "Towards a digital pedagogy". Through the miracle of technology, his presentation is already online. It was a wide ranging, interesting talk, which covered globalisation and the effect of digital technology on learning. He made the observation that a surgeon from 1911 would be completely lost in the 21st Century operating theatre but the school teacher would be familiar with the 21st Century classroom: "Technology has not been permitted to make an impact". He asked "Why are we making such heavy weather of transforming learning?". He also said that "we should not simply digitise current practice" but use technology in new and innovative ways. He emphasised the importance of continued professional development for teachers. He concluded by stating that "The 1960's approach to teaching and learning cannot be sustained".

I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more about pedagogy, and some fundamental questions were not addressed -- such as "Is technology simply a tool or does it fundamentally change pedagogy?". But it was very interesting to listen to someone with such a interesting background and commitment to education.

The conference continues until Friday.

Linux Professional Institute (LPI) Training Opportunity

In June 2011 our first batch of Linux trainees enjoyed a week of staff development from Forth Valley College. Here are some happy smiling faces from the Scottish Further Education Computing Sector. The group of 12 included lecturers from across Scotland.

We are delighted that there is now another opportunity to build Linux expertise and capacity across the sector. The Linux awards like those of other DIVA partners are going through SCQF credit and levelling and will where needed sit inside HNC and HND Awards.

 Forth Valley College, in conjunction with LPI (Linux Professional Institute) are running a CPD opportunity for staff wishing to deliver the LPI-1 qualification within their own Centre. The training will be offered on 13th– 17th February. The course is free to any FE College. All courses run at Forth Valley College, Falkirk Campus . The 5 day training course will prepare participants for the Linux Professional Institute examinations LPI- 101 and LPI- 102 which when successfully achieved give LPIC-1 certification. For more information please contact Tony Dyer on 01324 403158 or e-mail

To book a place please contact Gillian Culbert

Monday, 21 November 2011

HN review

When we undertake a major development we sometimes create a separate blog for it, to save this blog from becoming "poluted" with a single development. So, around a year ago, we created a blog for the HN Review, which is a large project that aims to update five popular HN awards in the Computing area. The HN Review blog, we hope, has permitted ordinary lecturers to keep up-to-date with those developments so that they are fully aware of what is coming next year.

I updated that blog this afternoon and thought it might be a good time to remind readers of this blog about its existence. I won't repeat here what I wrote there since you can check the HN blog if you are interested in how things are coming along. Suffice to say, things are progressing OK, with the usual speed-bumps along the way!

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the new HN awards.

Heads of Computing Event - Last Call

The Heads of Computing Event will take place on Friday 2nd December 2011 in the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow.

We have limited places left so if you have not yet registered and plan to come along please click on the following URL:

Look forward to seeing you then.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Validity theory

I attended one of SQA's occasional research seminars on Friday afternoon about the validity of assessment. It was presented by Paul Newton of Cambridge Assessment, part of Cambridge University.

Paul's talk was entitled: "Controversy surrounding modern validity theory". The validity of an assessment is a measure of its appropriateness. For example, assessing driving skills (solely) through a writing test would not be very valid.

The "controversy" relates to arguments surrounding classical validity theory versus modern validity theory. Classical theory focuses purely on the appropriateness of the test for its intended purpose; modern theory extends this to include all possible uses of the test. For example, a Higher question paper might be appropriate for its intended purpose (to measure students' knowledge of the associated curriculum) but not valid for some of its actual purposes (such as selection for university). Classical assessment theory would consider this examination valid (it's OK for what it was designed for), whereas modern theory would not (it's not OK for what it is used for).

It was a complex but interesting lecture. Classical validity theory creates lots of different types of validity (such as content validity, construct validity and predictive validity) whereas modern theory only has one (construct validity) but requires this to be tested for all possible uses. At the end of the presentation, my sympathies lay with classical validity theory since the complexities of measuring all of the possible effects of a test were too great.

These research seminars are presented by experts in the subject area, and are intended to keep SQA staff up-to-date with the latest developments in assessment and qualification design.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Putting Learners at the Centre

There was an internal SQA meeting this morning to discuss the implications for SQA of the recently published pre-legislative report on post-16 education in Scotland. Putting Learners at the Centre, published by the Scottish Government in September, covers key areas for post-compulsory education in Scotland, particularly issues relating to improved efficiency and articulation between college and university.

"Regionalism" is a key theme in the report, whereby groups of colleges and universities can work together, in a local region, to make efficiency savings and improve the service to learners. The other key theme is articulation between college and university. The report notes the successes in this area that have already been achieved, such as strong links between many HNC/D  programmes and degree courses, but makes clear that more could be done to strengthen these links and make them more successful.

We had an interesting conversation around three questions:
  1. Do we have the right qualifications to meet the needs of employers, learners and the economy?
  2. How can we improve progression and articulation between our qualifications and degrees?
  3. How can we work more closely with employers?
We've worked hard over the years to forge links between HN awards in Computing and associated degree programmes and, as a result, Computing is one of the subjects with the strongest articulation links between colleges and universities. The current HN Review aims for strengthen these links. It is the main reason that we elected an examination for the Graded Unit in the HNC, rather than a project. This report emphasises the importance of these links.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sector Panel meeting

The Sector Panel for Computing & IT met today in the SQA offices in Glasgow. The Panel meets twice per year. The basic job of a Sector Panel is to provide advice to the SQA team about external developments to ensure that the qualification portfolio is relevant to the needs of stakeholders. Members include representatives of colleges (such as Forth Valley College), employers (such as Microsoft) and national agencies (such as Education Scotland). I was pleased to introduce two new members tday - a representative of the British Computer Society and a representative of Skills Development Scotland.

We had a busy agenda, which included the HN Review, the update to Internet Safety, and the progress with the new NPAs in Mobile Technology.

Members were impressed with how the new HNs are shaping up. The draft frameworks include lots of new units, such as Computer Forensics, Online Collaboration, Mobile Technology and Cloud Computing, which should make the new awards very up-to-date.

Two members of the Panel had produced a report on how best to measure performance, and they reported on their findings today. Measuring success is not simply a case of working out what percentage of the intake actually achieve an HNC or HND in a given year. Many students leave courses early or return to complete a course they started some years before, so it was interesting to discuss how best to measure the "true" success rates. One of the presenters noted that the number of students doing HN awards in Computing had remained largely stable, in spite of significant falls in number of students studying Computing at university and, to a lesser extent, schools.

The discussions will continue on the online forum for Panel members. The next meeting will take place in Spring 2012.

We're looking for new members so please contact Caroline if you are interested in serving on the Panel.

Friday, 4 November 2011

NC Computer Games Development QDT meeting

The QDT for the new National Certificate in Computer Games Development at SCQF Level 6 met this morning in the SQA offices in Glasgow. This was the second meeting of the team. There was a good turn-out, with 10 members attending, representing colleges, schools, and industry.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the existing awards and to begin the debate about the nature of the new award. There are a number of existing qualifications in this area and it's important that this new award "fits" with what's already there. So we had a good look inside the existing NPAs, NC and HNC in this area.

My presentation focused on the process of creating new qualifications and the timescales that we are working to.
We aim to have the new qualification available to centres from May next year, when we will conduct a launch event to showcase all of the games-based awards available to centres.

The QDT had interesting discussions about a wide range of issues, such as the balance between mandatory and optional units, the core skills that should be covered, and how this award fits with the philosophy of the Curriculum for Excellence. One thing everyone agreed about was the importance of qualifications like this for making learning engaging and productive.

Our next step is to select a Lead Developer, which we hope to do in the next week or so. This person plays a key role in driving the development forward. I'll keep you posted about this.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about this project.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Internet Safety update

I met with Ted Hastings yesterday afternoon to discuss progress with the review of the Internet Safety qualification. Ted had been at a meeting in the morning in Edinburgh with various agencies with an interest in this area, including the Scottish Government and Education Scotland.

I was pleased to hear that his proposed changes to the existing qualification were well received. Over the last couple of months, Ted has been consulting widely on the contents of the updated unit.

So, we're now at the stage where we can confidently proceed with writing the revised unit. A draft version will be available by the end of this month, with a final version available to centres from January 2012. We will also update the support materials, which will include an assessment exemplar and online teaching materials, including a mobile phone version. These materials will be available to centres from March next year.

We plan to launch the revised qualification at Safer Internet Day 2012, which will be 2 February next year.

Contact Caroline for more information about our Internet Safety award.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Updated team chart

I recently updated the qualification portfolio diagram, and today I updated the team chart to show which Qualifications Officer (QO) is responsible for what awards.

You should download and print this diagram, and use it when you contact SQA.

Monday, 31 October 2011

External Verifier meeting

There was an EV meeting on Saturday in Glasgow. Once a year, all of the EVs meet to discuss quality related issues. The meeting is led by the Senior Verifier for my subject area, David Drennan.

It's a long day, commencing at 9:30am and finishing around 4pm, but it covers a lot of issues. The topics at this meeting included CPD for EVs, the new online system called EV+, and e-assessment. David also took the opportunity to discuss his annual report with the team.

Me and my team work closely with the EVs and it's great to have an opportunity to meet them face-to-face rather than the online contact that dominates normal communications.

I give a qualification update at every meeting, which covers all of the changes that have taken place over the last year. It's important that EVs are aware of new qualifications that they may come across in centres. In fact, knowing about qualifications is part of the new system of "competency" that EVs will be required to satisfy, which David described to his team.
Qualifications development played a particularly large part of Saturday's meeting. The person leading the HN Review, Gerry Mackie, provided an update on this development, and June McCamlie updated EVs about qualifications available outside of Scotland, such as our new Computer Games awards that are available in England.

Being an EV is a great way to get a feel for standards across Scotland, and is fantastic CPD. Contact Allison Paterson if you want to know more about becoming an EV for Computing.

Friday, 28 October 2011

300 followers on Twitter

I noticed that we passed the 300 threshold on Twitter this morning. We've been adding around 5-10 followers per week for the last few months. It would be great if that figure was 600, and included every Computing teacher and lecturer in Scotland.

We don't use Twitter for trivia. So, if you choose to follow us, I promise that we won't bore you with our personal opinions or what we had for breakfast this morning. But we do use it for short, sharp updates. Sometimes it's something important (such as a new qualification) and sometimes it's not so important (such as one of the team being on leave). But, I hope, it's always potentially useful to you.

You can get Twitter on your PC, smartphone and tablet, so it's a simple and convenient way of keeping up-to-date with what the team are doing. I hope you choose to follow us. If you do already, please encourage others to do so.

Effective assessment workshop

I attended a workshop about assessment yesterday. It was organised by JISC and held in Glasgow. There was an excellent turn-out, with around 60 people attending from the HE and FE sectors. The title of the workshop was Effective Assessment in the Digital Age, and its key purpose was to generate ideas about how to change [assessment] practice in college.

I've had a professional interest in how technology affects assessment for a long time. My paper on modernising assessment generated some interest a few years ago. Interestingly, the event opened with the statement: "You won't here us talk about 'e-assessment' or 'computer-assisted assessment', only how technology can assist assessment". The implication being that technology is assistive, not transformational. I'm not sure that I agree.

The event was very practical, with few presentations and lots of round-table discussions. There were also a couple of case studies about how centres have used tools such as blogs and e-portfolios for assessment. The JISC publication Effective Assessment in a Digital Age [PDF] was referred to throughout the event, and it's a publication that I recommend you download and read.

There are lots of challenges around the use of technology for learning and assessment. We need to modernise teaching methods to take advantage of the new learning environment. And research has shown that we don't assess online writing consistently or, on many occasions, fairly.

JISC events are invariably good, and yesterday's event was no exception. You can get a taste of it from its Twitter feed.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Microsoft Partners in Learning

wPartners in Learning Forum UK 2011

  There are lots of opportunities for school teachers to see good practice in ICT. We now have three Microsoft Innovative Schools in Scotland and each year Microsoft holds their Partners in Learning Conference. We have had Scottish Innovative teachers flown  to European and Global destinations as part of the Partners in Learning Innovative teachers competition.

   If you know someone who is working wonders in the classroom using ICT please pass this message on.

The 8th Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Forum is a one-day conference, free of charge to all teachers and educators who wish to attend. The workshops and keynotes this year have a STEM ‘flavour’ and address the theme of ‘Teach more, learn more, inspire more.’
This year the Forum is being held at the Microsoft Headquarters, Thames Valley Park in Reading on the 24th Nov 2011.

We have a rich agenda that includes as Keynote speakers, the world renowned Ian Livingstone OBE, Life President ofEidos , Alex Bellos, the author of the popular science bookAlex's Adventures in Numberland and Ollie Bray, the National Adviser for Emerging Technologies at Education Scotland
In addition, delegates will be able to choose from a range of workshops. I would suggest that you sign up as soon as possible as places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Using the Kinect SDK/Kodu in the classroom
clip_image004Classroom Teachers Ray Chambers from Lodge Park Technology College & Nicki Maddams fromHartsdown College, give hands-on practical guidance on how to programme and create games in the classroom
clip_image006Everyone is a Maths genius, can computer science/technology prove it?
Dr Chris Imafidon – is one of the “World’s foremost scholars on leveraging informatics for learning and exceptional achievement. This workshop will discuss how computer science/technology exposed the myths of natural Intelligence, genes, gender, IQ, age, background, post-code.
Computing: The Science of Nearly Everything?
clip_image008Dr Tom Crick, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC), looks at the big question: How are we developing and encouraging the next generation of technology innovators in the UK?
clip_image010Be a Maker: learn to build gadgets with .NET Gadgeteer
Dr Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche from Microsoft Research.Do you like computer gadgets? Would you like to learn how to build and program gadgets to your own design? Then this workshop is for you!
Medicines and innovation – the missing link
Kandarp Thakkar - STEM Ambassador Programme - This workshop will introduce the STEM programme and give some ‘real-life’ case studies of successful use of this programme in delivering high quality university admissions.
clip_image014Guerrilla Teaching & Learning
Daniel Raven-Ellison is a guerrilla educator, co-founder of The Geography Collective and creative director of Mission:Explore. Join this workshop to receive initial training in how to be a guerrilla teacher and learner.
Who’s afraid of the big bad ‘network’
Dan Roberts from community school, presents light-hearted perspective and interactive & engaging discussion which considers the challenges & issues of schools using social networking, how these can be overcome?
Also, find out who are the recipients of this year’s Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Teacher Awards.The awards will be presented to Teachers who have submitted projects that illustrate the innovative use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. Not only will they receive award recognition, but have the chance to be invited to the next Partners in Learning Forum and win a Xbox 360 and Kinectpackage for their school. These projects will be on display at the event.
Don’t miss out, register today – Registration now open

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Heads of Computing event

I recently posted about the planned Heads of Computing event, which will be held on 2 December in Glasgow. The team met this morning to firm-up our plans and finalise the agenda.

The event will take place in the recently refurbished Central Hotel in Glasgow, commencing at 10:00am and finishing at 4:00pm. We are accepting online registrations now. There are 70 places available but it's a popular event so please book soon.

It should be an interesting day. In addition to the usual standing items - my qualifications update and the Senior EV's annual report - we will also talk about:

  • HN Review
  • case study in delivering Computer Games qualifications
  • college partnerships.

There will also be an update on the e-learning materials available to support Computing awards, including a demonstration.

A detailed agenda will be sent to every centre in the near future. Please contact Caroline if you want to know more about this event. You can register here.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Presentation to Croatian delegation

From time to time, I get asked to talk to international visitors to SQA. This morning I gave a presentation to a group of educationalists from Croatia about SVQs.

Although I focussed on the role of my own Sector Skills Council (E-Skills) and the development of my own SVQs (IT User and IT Practitioner), the presentation was pretty generic, so I thought you might like to see it.

Around 20 people from Croatia are visiting. The planned presentations include the full range of SQA awards in a number of subject areas.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about SVQs in IT.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Moodle training

I attended a workshop on the latest version of Moodle yesterday afternoon. It was held in the JISC offices in Glasgow.

Moodle 2 was released a few months ago and includes lots of new features. This latest version looks nice. It has a clean interface, and is simple to use. I particularly liked its new filing system, which works well with a host of Web 2.0 services, such as Dropbox and Google Docs.

I don't teach any more, so my reason for attending this event was simply to keep up-to-date with what modern VLEs can offer, so that our support materials "work" with them. This event was well organised, and it refreshed my knowledge of Moodle.

SQA uses Moodle for our SQA Academy, which runs on it. And Moodle is the most popular VLE in the UK. I have a personal interest in the evolving VLE versus Web 2.0 debate. Some people think that there is no need for VLEs -- that we should simply use the free (and, often, superior) tools that are out there. Others like the formality and rigour that VLEs provide. Most people, including me, sit in the middle -- VLEs can't compete with the dynamic nature of Web 2.0 tools but can provide a useful administrative "glue". I think Moodle 2 goes some way along this road, with its excellent Web 2.0 integration.

We have a wide range of e-learning materials to support our awards. We've previously posted on the HN materials and the NC materials that you can download and host on your own VLE.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Updated qualification portfolio

I've spent some of today updating the diagram that shows the qualifications in my portfolio.

The recently added awards are in bold. You might want to download and print this diagram if you want to see the range of awards available to your centre.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about non-advanced (SCQF 6 and below) awards (and all SVQs) or contact Caroline for advanced awards (SCQF 7 and above).

Friday, 14 October 2011

Oracle Academy & ThinkQuest Information Seminars and the ThinkQuest Competition 2012

We partner with a number of global vendors through the Digital ICT Vendor Alliance

Oracle have asked us to highlight the following competition and workshops running across Scotland.

Oracle Academy and
                                                ThinkQuest logo

 The ThinkQuest International Competition 2012 

 Think with us and you'll be ready
Find out more about the ThinkQuest International Competition and the Oracle Academy at this year's free 1/2 day Information Seminars:

Dundee - Wednesday 9 November 2011
Glasgow - Thursday 10 November 2011
Glasgow - Thursday 2 February 2012 

To register your FREE place visit:

The ThinkQuest International Competition 2012 officially opened on 14 September! Watch our amazing launch video here.

The ThinkQuest International Competition 2012:

Has amazing prizes - trips to the USA, laptops, cash and every entrant receives certification
Is for students from primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities
Has three separate entry categories - ThinkQuest Projects, Digital Media and Application Development
Is open to a wide age range of students from 12 & under to 22 years old
Allows students to stand out from the crowd through working with one of the world's most recognised organisations, the Oracle Education Foundation 
not limited to ThinkQuest members only

Please visit our website for further detail, including how you can help your students to enrol in the Competition, by clicking here
 Find out more about the ThinkQuest International Competition, how ThinkQuest is helping students to achieve Curriculum for Excellence and the Oracle Academy at this year's free 1/2 day with lunch information seminars which take place on:

Wednesday 9 November, 10am-12pm - Dundee, Discovery Point 
Thursday 10 November, 10am-12pm - Glasgow, Teacher Building
Thursday 2 February, 10am-12pm - Glasgow, Teacher Building

To register your place for the free information seminars please click here.
 Oracle Academy and
                                            ThinkQuest logo 

IT trends

I came across an interesting article yesterday about IT trends over the next five years. Some of them are predictable (mobile, social and cloud computing) but the others were interesting. We've covered some of them in the HN Review (such as mobile and cloud) but there are other areas that we should think about. I guess five years is the most anyone can predict in this fast moving sector. I plan to include a discussion about what you would like to see SQA offer in the forthcoming Heads of Computing event.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Online materials for NC/NPA awards

Me and Hilary met with Graeme Clark, of the E-Assessment & Learning team, this morning to discuss electronic support materials for non-advanced awards.

Over the last couple of years, through the TranSETT programme, a range of e-learning and e-assessment materials have been produced to support NCs and NPAs, such as the NC in Digital Media Computing and the NPA PC Passport.

The purpose of the meeting was to update us about what's coming. New materials, for awards like the NPA in Computer Games Development, are coming soon.

I was impressed with the quantity of materials available to support my awards. But we agreed that many centres did not know exactly what was available or where to find it. So Graeme is going to speak at the forthcoming Heads of Computing event, and Hilary is going to write a letter to centres to let you know what's available and where to get it. She will also post a message on this blog, with links to the materials.

Contact Graeme if you want to know more about TranSETT. Contact Hilary if you want to know more about non-advanced awards in this area.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Heads of Computing event

My recent update letter mentioned that the Heads of Computing event will take place on Friday, 2 December. The team organises one of these events every year. Last year's event, in Edinburgh, was badly effected by the weather. This year's event will be held in Glasgow.

One of the main reasons for having the meeting is to meet you face-to-face, rather than the more usual virtual communications.

We're currently working on the agenda. So please let us know, via the comment facility on this blog, if there are any specific topics you want included. I've already received a suggestion to include a discussion about college partnerships and collaboration, which sounds worthwhile. And we always include a qualification update session as a standing item so that we can summarise all of the changes that have taken place in the last 12 months.

You can register for the event here. We'll be sending an e-mail invitation, via our Heads of Computing mailing list, in the near future. The attendance is normally excellent, with just about every college in Scotland represented. I hope you can makes this year's event. If you can only make one SQA event this year, this one should be it.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about this event or register directly here.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Curriculum for Excellence

The team took some time out this morning to meet with Derek Middleton to discuss the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) programme. Derek is a Qualifications Development Manager (QDM) with special responsibility for Computing and Information Systems.

Derek gave us an update on progress to date, and provided us with an opportunity to ask him questions about how the new Computing qualifications are shaping up. The big change is that the current separate courses (in Computing and Information Systems) are being combined into a single course (Computing & Information Science), which will be offered at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6 (there will also be Access provision).

The draft course and unit specifications are available on the SQA website, and the programme is currently seeking feedback on the proposals.

When Derek left the meeting, the team discussed our views on the current proposals. We liked them, but recognised the challenge will be matching the aspirations of the programme with the more pragmatic demands of national examinations. The new qualifications will have a big impact on vocational awards since many students coming into NC/HNC/HND programmes will possess the new awards.

We plan to make a formal response. You should too.

Contact Derek if you want to know more about CfE.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Learning and teaching materials for NPA Computer Games Development at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6

We commissioned online learning and teaching materials to be hosted on SQA Academy to complement these awards. The material was supposed to be ready for August this year, however there have been some delays and estimated availability is now the end of October.

I get a lot of enquiries asking when this material will be ready, and it would appear that many centres are postponing offering the NPAs until learning and teaching support is available. I must stress that everything needed to deliver these Group Awards is available NOW and has been since August 2010. The online material was commissioned because our eAssessment Team had some extra funding that could be utilised, however we would not ordinarily be able to offer additional resources like these.

Many schools have been delivering the NPAs in Computer Games Development using the Unit specifications and Arrangements document, and the Assessment Support Packs for each level exemplify tasks and give excellent guidance on the standard required.

Please use the Unit search facility on SQA's website to download Unit specifications
Arrangements here
SQA Coordinators can download ASPs from SQA Secure

There is a plethora of useful resources for games qualifications outwith SQA - the Consolarium hosted by LTS links to the NPAs and many other links can be found in the Arrangements. We will continue to develop support material and CPD courses for these Awards as they grow and more centres deliver them, but there is no reason for schools and colleges not to offer them now.

If you would like more information on these qualifications please contact me.

For an update on the status of online learning and teaching materials please contact Ayson Craig.