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.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Changes to HN Unit Interactive Media Composition

There have been some significant changes (including removal of outcome) to the HN Unit Interactive Media Composition over the Summer and as a result we have added to the HND Interactive Media (G9AY 16) framework a revised version of this to run alongside the existing F6BW 35 Interactive Media Composition.  Unfortunately we were unable to implement any changes before the start of the new session so we were unable to include this in our batch notification update in July.

This means that centres can choose to deliver F6BW 35 Interactive Media Composition OR FW2V 35 Interactive Media Composition.  Both are at the same SCQF Level and are single credit Units.

A finish date of 31st July 2013 has been attached to FW2V 35 so any centres choosing to continue to deliver this Unit will have to ensure their candidates are certificated by this end date.

A new exemplar pack has been developed for FW2V 35 and should be published over the next couple of months.