Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Computer Games event

The event to support teachers of the new NPAs in Computer Games Development took place yesterday at Scotland's Colleges in Stirling.

There has been a fantastic response to this course, with it being over-subscribed many times over. Thirty-five people attended yesterday's event, mostly teachers from Scottish schools but college lecturers too.

The event was a collaboration between Scotland's Colleges and SQA Academy. Participants undertook some [online] preparation via SQA Academy prior to yesterday's event, which was a face-to-face meeting, led by Colin Maxwell of Carnegie College.

I wasn't able to attend but, by all accounts, if was a good day. It's planned to have a couple more events due to the demand for this course in March and June.

Contact Fiona Saxby for more information about this course or contact Hilary if you want to know more about the qualifications.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

ICT Skills Plan

I was invited to a workshop in the Scottish Enterprise offices in Edinburgh today about the ICT Skills Plan for Scotland.

The Scottish Government created an ICT Industry Strategy for Scotland in 2010, and part of this was a Skills Plan. It recently commissioned a company to update that plan. As a result, there will be an updated ICT Skills Plan, and part of the process of creating the new plan is a number of workshops, when the Plan's creators will meet various organisations that effect ICT skills in Scotland. Today's meeting had representatives of the private sector (such as BT and Skyscanner), and public sector organisations (such as SQA).

There was a lot of discussion around Computing in schools. There was general agreement that young people (and especially girls) don't appreciate the range of exciting, well paid jobs in the IT industry, and also general misunderstanding about the meaning of words such as and "IT" and "ICT". It was recognised that initiatives such as the Curriculum for Excellence and the HN Review would address some of the weaknesses of the current curriculum in schools and colleges.

I always enjoy listening to practitioners. I learnt from the industry representatives about current job shortages (which include software testers and computer forensics/security specialists), and I hope I made a contribution to what schools and colleges can do to help.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

HN College Collaboration Meeting

Chris Jones (Cumbernauld College) recently got in touch to ask if the Computing Team could add some information to our blog for a forthcoming HN College Collaboration meeting that has been organised by Marion McNab (City of Glasgow College) and himself to take place on Friday 2nd March 2012.  

The initial meeting is to define and outline the aims and outcomes of the collaboration, and methodology of creating and verifying learning and assessment materials.

To find out the venue, time and agenda for the meeting (and to register your attendance), please click on the URL below:

If you would like further information on any aspect of this meeting, please contact Chris.

Using social media in assessment

A new project has been announced in the HN Review blog. The HN 2.0 project aims to explore how Web 2.0/social media can be used within the new HNC Computing for assessment purposes. You can read more about it on the HN blog.

It sounds like an exciting project -- and the lessons learnt can be applied to other qualifications.

Don't forget to check the HN Review blog from time to time, to keep up-to-date with that project. Or contact Caroline if you have specific queries about it.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

We're hiring!

We try to be fair and transparent when we ask for volunteers to work with us. Social media is a great tool for this.

We have recently been looking for people to help us with a number of new projects. We use our online group for this. So, if you are interested in working with the SQA Computing team, please subscribe to the SQA Computing online community, and you will be kept up-to-date with the new opportunities as they arise.

Working with SQA is not only professionally rewarding (it's great CPD), but you are paid, and, most importantly, you are affecting national qualifications, which are taught in every school and college in Scotland. So, it's a great way of making a real difference to Scottish education.

The online group is used for more than recruitment. It's a great way of asking (and answering) questions about any aspect of the portfolio of SQA Computing awards. Please subscribe here or simply click on the Groupspaces button on the right.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

New Introduction to Computers

It's the time of the year when you look at your operational plan -- and realise that there are some things that still need to be done! One of those things is the development of a new introductory, key skills unit in the area of Computing/IT. A sort of Introduction to Computers for the 21st Century.

If you're as old as me, you will remember the original Introduction to Computers. At one time, it was the most popular SCOTVEC module in the entire catalogue. This development provides an opportunity to resurrect something like that -- but embracing 21st Century IT skills.

We haven't decided on a title yet (our working title is Online Basics to emphasise the online and introductory aspects of the unit) but it will definitely be one credit at SCQF Level 4, and include hardware skills, software skills and online skills. The goal is to create a single unit that covers all of the basics of using computers in the 21st Century. Please use the comment facility if you have any ideas for what should be included.

The unit will be available to centres from May. Contact Hilary if you want more information about this development.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Visiting centres

Although we try to make ourselves available to you via social media, I appreciate it's not the same as a face to face meeting.  As I've pointed out previously, we're happy to visit your centre in person.

Either myself or one of my team would be happy to come to your college, school or training centre to discuss any aspect of qualifications or assessment. For example, I have previously visited colleges to talk about the qualification portfolio to help with their development planning. I've also visited a college to discuss ways of modernising assessment. On another occasion, I visited a school to help them introduce PC Passport.

I can't say that we will always be available, but don't be reluctant to ask. Contact me or Caroline or Hilary if you would like one of us to visit you. These visits are not only good for you (I hope) but it's also good for the team to get out and meet teachers and lecturers face to face.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Online mailing list

Over the last few years, the team has worked hard to use social media to engage with stakeholders. This blog has become an established channel of communication between SQA and centres. Our Twitter feed is growing in popularity, with almost 350 followers.

But the team's mailing lists have fallen into dis-use, which is a pity since they go way back to around the year 2000 when we first started to use (RIP) to communicate with teachers and lecturers. At one time, around the mid-2000's, we had over 600 members in the Smartgroup (RIP) for PC Passport. In fact, at one time, we had online groups for most of our popular qualifications, and these were generally popular and well used. But maintaining all of these e-groups as well as Blogger and Twitter became too much for a small team.

So, around 18 months ago, we decided to only maintain a single group for all vocational Computing awards. But even this one group has not proven to be very popular. Although there are quite a lot of members (63 currently), the group is pretty dead.

We think it has potential. We think that an online mailing list compliments our other social media channels. It uses very familiar technology (your e-mail program) and is ideal for asking and answering questions. So, we plan to continue to support this service and try to breath some life into it.

Please subscribe via this link. We plan to use the group for a variety of purposes, including job opportunities and to ask for your advice about curricular and assessment issues. The members of the group include SQA staff (me, Caroline and Hilary are members), SQA appointees (such as External Verifiers) and, of course, lots of fellow teachers.

Contact Hilary if you need any assistance to subscribe to this service.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Re-assessing Graded Units

I have been in discussion with External Verifiers (EVs) this week about the re-assessment of students' projects done as part of their Graded Units within various HNs. The discussion has been around the amount of help that teachers can give students, and how this should be reflected in marking.

It caused me to look at a number of (project based) Graded Units in my area to check what advice is given about teacher assistance, and how teachers should mark resubmitted work after remediation has been undertaken.

As a result of this review, I plan to look at my Graded Units to clarify the advice, and to ensure that it is consistent within and between units. This may result in some of the GU specifications being altered. In the meantime, I will write to centres to inform you about this review and also to provide some temporary guidance prior to any changes to units.

The EVs have assured me that teachers (and EVs) have been applying their common sense to this problem (and marking accordingly) but, in the interests of national standards, I will seek to clarify this advice so that every centre is applying exactly the same standards.

The document entitled Guidance on Graded Units [PDF] includes some useful information on re-assessment and is worth a read.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

E-commerce qualifications

We've been looking at our e-commerce qualifications recently, with a view to updating them. So, yesterday's E-Commerce Workshop, organised by Scotland IS, was very timely. And since it was held in the Raddison Hotel in Glasgow, it was also very convenient.

The full team attended since our existing e-commerce qualifications span the advanced and non-advanced sectors. It was an excellent event. Around 40 people attended, mostly from Scottish businesses. The event was very practical, the aim being to provide practical advice to permit more businesses to get online.

I learnt a great deal from the event. Some real experts were leading the workshops. I think all three of us (me, Caroline and Hilary) learnt a lot, which will help us to ensure our existing portfolio of e-commerce awards is up-to-date.

We recently developed a new NPA in Doing Business Online, which added to the existing NPA in Website Enterprise, and there are various HN units that relate to this area. We are currently looking at these qualifications to check that they are fit for purpose.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about our e-commerce awards.