Thursday, 28 July 2011

Impact of IT on learning

I attended one of SQA's occasional research seminars yesterday afternoon. This one was about learners' use of IT. The research was carried out (by SQA) between April and May 2011, and focussed on school pupils and college students in Scotland. The main points I noted were:
  • 9 in 10 used their own technology for learning
  • just over half felt "very comfortable" using technology for learning
  • 2 in 3 used technology for assessment purposes
  • 3 in 4 used some sort of virtual learning environment
  • 9 in 10 felt technology helped them to learn.
Although students themselves used social media (such as Facebook) for learning, this was pretty limited (such as setting up a Facebook group to discuss homework) and they didn't think social media had a lot of potential for learning.

Teachers were also positive about learners' use of technology, expressing the view that it improved engagement (particularly with less able students), provided access to up-to-date information, and improved learners' IT skills, which they will need for their working and adult lives. Both teachers and learners enjoyed using technology.

It wasn't all positive. Some teachers were concerned about the "cut and paste" mentality among some learners. Teachers also expressed some concerns about students' different levels of access to technology - and the implications for fairness. And they were also a little worried about students' ability to differentiate between the quality of information on different websites. Blocks on access to "useful websites" was also commented on.

Although one of the advantages of using technology in school and college was the new skills students acquire, only 30% of students felt that they were well prepared for using technology in the workplace. Half the students felt "very comfortable" using technology - meaning that half did not. And although 9 in 10 felt technology helped them to learn, only 4 in 10 said it helped them to a "great extent". So there is clearly room for improvement.

We plan to publish the report in the near future. Contact Simon Allan if you want more to know more about this research.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

SVQ IT Professional Survey - Your help required

Please find below link to a survey on proposals to replace the current SVQ IT Practitioner and Professional qualifications which form part of Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland.

Your feedback is much appreciated.

Monday, 25 July 2011


Our meeting with Colin and Gerry from Scotland's Colleges last Thursday was part of the team's "AGM". Once per year we try to find a day to get away from our e-mails and telephones to discuss more strategic issues.

Our relationship with Scotland's Colleges is clearly one such issue, but we also discussed other things. We reviewed the membership of committees. We run three committees: the Sector Panel for Computing & IT; and the Qualifications Support Teams for NC/NPA and HN/PDA awards. The Sector Panel and the QST for HN awards are OK, but we need more members for the QST for NC awards so please contact Hilary if you are interested in joining.

We make a specific effort at these meetings to review our use of technology. For example, at our AGM in 2009 we decided to use Twitter to communicate with centres (there are now almost 250 followers). In 2010 we decided not to use something -- we felt wikis were not ready for serious use as a collaborative writing tool (at least for our purposes). At this year's meeting we looked at video communication, such as Skype, and agreed to try to use this more often to communicate with stakeholders. We can review the success of this idea at next year's AGM!

Contact me if you have any ideas about how the team can work more effectively with you.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Meeting with Scotland's Colleges team

Me, Caroline and Hilary met with the corresponding team from Scotland's Colleges this morning. Colin and Gerry came through to the SQA offices in Glasgow. The purpose of the meeting was to update each other on our respective plans, and explore ways of working together.

It was a productive meeting, with lots of good ideas coming out of it. One of the things we discussed was teaching and learning materials for the new HNs that will be produced as part of the on-going HN Review. SQA will produce assessments for the mandatory units within these awards, but we recognised that centres may need additional support to implement these new qualifications.

We also discussed the problem of "information fragmentation". One of the findings of the recent satisfaction survey was that you found the different sources of information (the SQA website, this blog, Twitter, etc.) confusing. So we agreed to look at ways of bringing this together (including information provided by Scotland's Colleges).

SQA and Scotland's Colleges already work together in various ways. For example, Colin is a member of the Sector Panel for Computing & IT, and Caroline is a member of the Subject Network for Computing provided by SC. But we agreed to strengthen these links.

Pedagogy is an important part of the SC role, and we spent some time discussing ways that teaching and learning could be improved.

Good meetings have good outcomes, and we agreed lots of actions to be taken after this meeting. Hopefully, you will see some of these actions reported on this blog in the coming months. We also agreed to have future meetings like this one, perhaps including other national agencies, such as the new Education Scotland.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Summer tasks

Things are a little quieter in SQA over the summer months, at least for those people not directly involved in the examination diet. But there is plenty going on in the vocational area. We are currently working on a number of tasks including the HN Review, which is developing five new HN qualifications, a review of Internet Safety, which is a popular National Unit, updating Modern Apprenticeships in the IT Practitioner/Professional area, customising awards for markets outside of Scotland, writing support materials for a range of awards. and updating item banks with new material. We also help centres to develop their own SQA awards, and there are a couple of projects involving me and my team, which will be announced once the awards are ready. A quieter phone and smaller inbox gives us time to get a lot of work done that was put on the back-burner during the busy academic year.

The following document shows who is responsible for what inside the team. You might want to download and print it.

Don't forget to contact the right person if you want a quick reply to your enquiry.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Modern Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) are becoming an important part of the UK training landscape. There are currently three IT-related MAs offered in Scotland. There is one MA in the IT User area, at Level 3 (SCQF 6), and two in the IT Professional area, at Levels 2 and 3 (SCQF Levels 5 and 6).

An important part of any MA is the "educational" component, which is normally an appropriate SVQ. For example, the IT User programme includes SQA's SVQ IT User award at SCQF Level 6.

There is a small development team within SQA, dedicated to MA developments. We've been working with  E-Skills to update and extend the MA programme in Scotland. The MA relating to IT User has already been updated (it contains the latest SVQs in this area) but we have still to update the IT Professional MAs with the latest knowledge and skills. We're working on this and hope to have refreshed MAs in the near future.

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