Friday, 26 October 2012

CoderDoJo at the Scottish Parliament

I've written previously about CoderDoJo, an initiative to get young people interested in computer programming. I attended another session last night, this time held in the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh.

There was a fantastic turnout, with 27 kids in attendance, although only one girl. The classes are led by Craig Steele and are great fun. Last night Craig focused on HTML 5 programming. The kids seemed to enjoy it. The classes are a great way to get young people involved in coding.

The CoderDoJo scheme has grown significantly since it was first introduced, and is now popular in various countries throughout the world. You can follow CoderDoJo on Twitter.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Looking for Assessment Support Pack writers for new Computer Games Units

We need writers of the following packs to support forthcoming Computer Games Development awards at SCQF level 6. The Units are:
Computer Games: Creative Project (2 credit)

Computer Games: Software Development Project (2 credit)

H2CE 12 Computer Games: 2D Animation Skills

H2CF 12 Computer Games: 3D Modelling and Animation Skills

H1ND 12 Artificial Intelligence for Computer Games

Computer Games: Character Creation

Working in the Computer Games Industry

FN91 11 3D Modelling and Animation: An Introduction at SCQF level 5

Only Units with codes are available on the website at the moment, so if you are interested or would like some more information regarding what's involved please contact me.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Review of NC Digital Media Computing and PC Passport

I recently sent an update letter to centres to inform them, among other things, of a forthcoming review of two non-advanced qualifications: (1) National Certificate in Digital Media Computing; and (2) PC Passport.

The NC was first introduced in 2007, which was also the year that we last reviewed PC Passport. So both awards are now due their "quinquennial" reviews. SQA tries to review all of its awards every five years to ensure that they remain relevant and up-to-date.

The first task in any qualification development is to form a Qualification Development Team (QDT). So, we're looking for members! Joining the QDT (for either development) is a great way to influence the contents of the revised awards. We also ask QDT members to get involved in unit writing and producing assessment exemplars. Many of the tasks are paid.

Please contact Hilary if you are interested in joining either or both QDTs. The QDTs normally meet a few times but much of the communication is online so your time commitment is kept to a minimum.

Heads of Computing event

Our annual Heads of Computing event takes place this year on Friday 23 November at Glasgow Caledonian University. Me and my team had a planning meeting this morning.

The purpose of the event is to let you know about past, current and future developments relating to vocational Computing awards, and also to highlight specific developments. Although the event is intended for college-based Heads of Department, it is also relevant to other staff (including school teachers).

This year's event will include updates on some key developments such as the HN Review and the Curriculum for Excellence. Chris Morrow, from E-Skills UK, will provide an update on UK-wide developments. We are also hoping to line-up a speaker to give a keynote presentation.

We do so much of our communications electronically that a face-to-face meeting is nice, and provides a great networking opportunity. It also gives me and my team an opportunity to meet practitioners.

The event is always popular and we reserve places on a first-come-first-served basis so please register soon if you want to attend. You can register here. Or contact Caroline if you have any questions.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Annual EV training event

The annual training event for External Verifiers was held on Saturday in SQA's Glasgow offices. There are 12 EVs who take care of vocational Computing qualifications, led by David Drennan. EVs perform a vital role within SQA's quality assurance system. This team visits centres to ensure that national standards are being applied in every SQA centre.

The purpose of Saturday's event was twofold: to tell EVs about SQA's new approach to quality assurance, and to provide a subject-related update. The QA system is being changed. The new system will be phased in over the next two years. There are already a number of pilot centres involved. The new system is a refinement on the existing system but with many improvements. For example, there are now a range of options open to EVs when they experience problems in a centre, rather than the "hold" or "don't hold" options in the current system. The new system sounds much better.

I gave a qualification update during the afternoon. It's important that EVs are aware of qualification changes so I talked about recent changes (such as the new HNC Computing), on-going changes (such as the HN Review), and forthcoming changes (such as the review of PC Passport). There was nothing in my update that regular readers of this blog will not know about.

Being an EV is a fascinating job, and superb CPD for teachers. You can find out more here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

New ICT curriculum in England and Wales

I attended an Inside Government conference in London yesterday. The title of the event was The New ICT Curriculum: Creating a 21st Century Skillset. Although the focus was England, much of the discussion was relevant to Scotland.

Earlier this year the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced changes to ICT in England, and talked about the wiki curriculum. This conference was really a progress-to-date on these developments.

Michael Gove announced that there would be new GCSEs in January. There are now four new GCSEs available to schools, with more to follow. These new qualifications focus on computer science rather than ICT. In fact, that was a recurring theme -- the need to deliver real computing skills, such as computer programming, rather than word processing and spreadsheets. Another theme was the need for course specifications to be less prescriptive, giving teachers and lecturers more freedom to decide what and how things should be taught. It was noted that there is a tension between curricular freedom and school/college inspections.

I've noted before that, in my view, the Scottish ICT curriculum has avoided many of the problems that exist in England and Wales. For example, we have continued with "pure" Computing courses, alongside ICT awards. My own portfolio is a mix of Computing and ICT; it includes "pure" qualifications, such as HND Software Development, and ICT qualifications, such as PC Passport. We have also traditionally taken a collaborative approach to qualification development. For example, the on-going HN Review involves over 20 Scottish colleges. Perhaps an area that we could learn from would be trying to be less prescriptive when we design awards.

The conference used the classification system first proposed by The Royal Society, categorising ICT courses as "computer science" or "information technology" or "digital literacy". SQA plans to adopt this terminology too.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Annual update letters to centres

I've been working on my annual update letters to centres for the last few days. There is one for non-advanced awards (such as NPAs) and one for advanced awards (such as HNCs). I arranged for them to be sent to centres this afternoon. They should arrive next week.

The update letters contain important information about changes to qualifications that have taken place over the last year, and also give early notification of future changes. For example, the NC/NPA letter includes information about new National Certificates in Computer Games Development, and notifies centres about forthcoming changes to PC Passport.

The HN/PDA letter provides an update on the HN Review and also contains information about other developments, such as the HN 2.0 project and the new e-commerce units.

There is nothing in the letters that readers of this blog will not know about, but we continue to send traditional letters because some teachers and lecturers prefer this format to more modern communications.

Both letters refer to the qualification portfolio diagram, which can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Heads of Computing Annual Event 2012

It's that time again!!  The Annual Heads of Computing Event 2012 will take place this year on Friday 23rd November 2012 at 1000 hours in Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow.

We are busy organising this event and hope to have a range of items for presentation and discussion.

To register, please click on the URL below: 

As places are limited, please ensure you book early to secure your registration.

A maximum of two places can be reserved by each registered delegate.

Look forward to seeing you then.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Satisfaction survey

Last year, the team launched a satisfaction survey to gauge the quality of service the team provides to stakeholders. I've been working on a new one for this year and it's now ready to be used. I would appreciate if you would take a few minutes to complete the survey.

Although I don't share the results (externally), the team does use the results to identify our strengths and weaknesses so that we can improve the service that we provide.

It's vital that we get a high response so please complete it.