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Friday, 27 September 2013

Digital literacy

The term "digital literacy" isn't new but it's one I am hearing more and more with each passing month. As you may know, The Royal Society recommended that digital literacy be recognised as one (of three) strands to the subject of Computing. There has been a number of recent reports about the need to improve the digital literacy skills of UK (and global) citizens. SQA responded to The Royal Society report by creating a cognate group for Digital Literacy.

Digital literacy is really a collection of literacies including, but not limited to, information literacy, network literacy and social media literacy. It has been described as "the essential skills for 21st Century citizenship". I am currently looking at my portfolio of awards, which includes an NPA in Digital Literacy that was created in 2007, to check if it is up-to-date. We're certainly more aware now of the key skills that need to be included in awards that can call themselves "digital literacy qualifications" and the current reviews (such as the review of PC Passport) will ensure that these knowledge and skills are "baked-in".

Contact me directly if you want to know more about digital literacy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

HN update letter

I sent an NC update letter to centres last month and yesterday I completed a similar letter for HN awards, which will be sent to colleges later this week. Readers of this blog can get it now.


The letter contains important information about such things as Graded Units and local options within HN awards. You may want to download it. There's nothing in the letter that readers of this blog don't know but you may want to share it with colleagues.

Both the NC and HN letters ask you to complete the centre satisfaction survey and follow the team on Twitter if you don't do so already.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Verification Group changes

I was informed today that the three new/revised Verification Groups (VGs) had now been created. They are:

288 Information Technology
357 Computer Science
358 Digital Literacy.

I've previously explained the rationale behind these changes.

This change will have operational implications for centres (in the sense that verification visits will now be based around these three groups) but, more importantly, it has philosophical implications. It defines a particular view of the subject ("Computing") with three parts. The first part, Digital Literacy, is foundational, encompassing key knowledge and skills required to work and play in the 21st Century, including the skills needed for participation in modern society. The second part, Information Technology, is more advanced and covers specialist knowledge and skills required for working in the computing industry or supporting users. The third part, Computer Science, encompasses the theory and practice of the science of computing, including computer programming.

I recently assigned qualifications to each of these groups. My portfolio spans all three groups, but particularly IT and, to a lesser extent, Digital Literacy. I also recently renamed the Sector Panel to "Computing", rather than "Computing & IT".

This change is about more than nomenclature. It clarifies what we mean by "Computing" and will aid our thinking about the subject area. SQA is pleased to be the first UK awarding body to fully adopt the recommendations in the Royal Society's report [PDF] (relating to subject names).

Visiting centres

I received a request this morning from a college to visit the centre to discuss Computing awards. I was delighted to accept.

I've mentioned previously that me and my team are available to visit your centre. I've enjoyed my previous visits. We're happy to visit you to discuss qualification developments or help you deliver SQA awards, so please don't hesitate to ask me or Caroline or Hilary. It's not only good for you (I hope) but it's good for us to see the end point of our work (the delivery of SQA qualifications in centres).

Monday, 9 September 2013

SQA and social media

Qualifications Development staff within SQA take a day out each year to look at best practice, internally and externally, to ensure that each of the qualification teams are aware of these practices and consider applying them to their own work.

I was invited to describe my team's use of social media to communicate with centres. As many of you will know, we've been using these tools since 2004 and, over time, I think this blog and some of the other tools (particularly our use of e-groups) have been successful. I pointed out the downsides too -- the time it can take to maintain something like this blog; the double work involved since you still have to send letters to centres; and the fact that not every teacher likes to use social media. I described my team's use of social media as "a qualified success".

Like most organisations, SQA is looking at ways of using social media to be more transparent and work more closely with stakeholders. I think some of the other teams liked Twitter since this takes much less time to maintain than a full blown blog and can send out short messages very qucikly so look out for some new Twitter accounts from other qualification teams in the near future. And don't forget to follow this team on Twitter if you don't already.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

HND Computer Science

The recently completed HN Review not only updated existing HNC and HND awards but also introduced a new qualification entitled HND Computer Science. Anecdotal evidence seems to point to this new award being very popular in centres (more so than I anticipated). We're delighted to be the only awarding body in the UK with this unique HND.

Initial feedback from centres has been positive but some people have commented that the contents of the award don't quite match the title. For example, mathematics is not mandatory within this HND when it is within most Computer Science degrees.

So, I plan to talk to a few people over the next month or two, including representatives of colleges and universities - old and new, to get their views on what, if anything, needs to be changed. But we're not talking radical change. In fact, there may be no change at all since the framework is already sufficiently flexible to provide a highly scientific programme if that's what you want. There is guidance in the Group Award Specification [PDF] to illustrate routes through the award that match specific course objectives.

You can find out more about the HND Computer Science here or contact Caroline if you have a specific query.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Introducing the new Nationals

This video, about the new school qualifications, was recently released on the SQA channel on Youtube. It's an excellent introduction to the new qualifications.


You can find more videos here.