Friday, 20 December 2013

Digital Passport

As you most likely know, we've been revising PC Passport for a while. Quite early in that development, the QDT realised that we wanted to change a great deal about the award so that it embraced lots of modern knowledge and skills. As a result, we made an early decision to create two awards: an entirely new one and one based on the current award. The development effectively split into two, and we've been working on the new award for most of the time.

The new award will be called Digital Passport. It will be a National Progression Award (NPA) at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6, and consist of three units (at all Levels):

  1. Information Literacy
  2. Network Literacy
  3. Social Media Literacy

The qualification will be hierarchical (like the original PC Passport award) so that you can teach multi-levels in the same classroom.

We think that this new award is the most up-to-date digital literacy award in the UK. It will deliver essential digital skills for 21st Century citizens. It was designed to embrace the essential skills that various government reports have highlighted. We hope that it will become as popular as PC Passport in its heyday.

We haven't forgotton about PC Passport. We've been working on updating this to modernise its contents. But the changes will be minimal and a clear evolution of the current award, so that if you currently teach PC Passport it will be straight-forward to move over to the new one.

The validation event for Digital Passport takes place in January, with the corresponding event for PC Passport later in the year. We hope to have both awards available to centres from 2014-15.

I'll be writing to centres early in the New Year with more details but in the meantime contact Hilary for more information.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Cyber Security lecture

I attended a Christmas lecture on information (cyber) security at Glasgow University yesterday afternoon. It was organised by SISCA. Around 1000 local school pupils attended the three sessions in Glasgow, with more to follow in other locations later this week. It's great to see so many young people interested in this aspect of computer science.

The event was presented like the BBC's Christmas Lectures, with interesting presentations and lots of interaction with the audience. Topics covered included: encryption, password creation, security threats (such as spoofing) and advice on how to protect yourself. It was great fun - but fun with a serious educational purpose.

Martin Beaton organised the event and highlighted the current demand for skills in this area and the on-going shortage of people to fill the vacant positions.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

HND Computer Science

I've written previously about my informal review of the HND Computer Science. This new qualification was first introduced in August of this year as part of the HN Review and has proven to be surprisingly popular in centres. We're proud to be the first (and only) awarding body in the UK to offer a Higher National Qualification in this area.

The reason for the "mini-review" was that I had received anecdotal evidence that, although popular, the title and contents of the award weren't a great match. So I dedicated a little time each week to talking to individuals and groups about this qualification. In that time I think I've discussed it with a pretty large and representative cross-section of stakeholders. And it's clear that there is a consensus about a few things.

The title and qualification are liked. Overwhelmingly. So there is no question of the title changing. But there is also a clear view that the contents aren't quite right. The obvious things that are missing are mathematics and more "hard core" computer science, such as algorithms and data structures. As someone said: "There's no enough science in it to call it Computer Science".

The question is how we go about making changes to the award to make it a better fit. There are a number of options ranging from producing guidance to changing the award itself.  I'll be taking this forward internally and keep you posted.

But the changes will not be rushed and will not be huge (if there are any changes at all to the award itself). The current award is popular, and has sufficient options to orient the award in a number of ways. No-one wanted huge changes. Whatever comes out will be a clear evolution of what's there now.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about HND Computer Science.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Heads of Computing Event

In the recent HN Update letter to centres, you were informed that we were in the process of discussing plans for the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Computing.

This years event will take place a little later than usual on Friday 31st January 2014 at 1000 hours (Registration from 0930 hours) in the Menzies Hotel, 27 Washington Street, Glasgow G3 8AZ.

The event will cover current and future curricular developments as well as a number of spotlight items of interest to the field.

Places are limited and will be based on a first come first served basis with each delegate allocated a maximum of 2 places which is built into the online registration.
If you are interested in coming along to this event then please register online by clicking HERE.
We look forward to seeing you on the 31st January.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Scottish Colleges Computing Consortium

I was invited to attend a meeting of the Scottish Colleges Computing Consortium (SC3) this morning, which was held at the City of Glasgow College. The group is convened by Cameron Walker of Aberdeen College. I was invited to speak about two things: the new way of accrediting vendor awards within HN qualifications, and the new HND Computer Science.

There was unanimity about the value of vendor awards within vocational Computing qualifications but some debate about how best to do this. The current (pilot) system involves direct accreditation of vendor qualifications within SQA awards but this, according to centres, has had mixed success. We're currently carrying out a review of this new way of recognising vendor qualifications and I promised to represent the CS3's views when I was asked for my input. Several constructive suggestions were proposed at the meeting about how to address this problem.

As regular readers will know, I am currently carrying out a "mini-review" of the new HND Computer Science and I wanted to know what the SC3's views were on the new award. They pretty much chimed with what everyone else has been telling me -- the new award is liked (and popular with students) but there needs to be a better match between the title and the contents.

Contact Cameron for more information about SC3. Contact me about the review of HND Computer Science.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Bridging the Skills Gap

I attended an event on Friday, organised by Iain Shand of Glasgow Clyde College, about the current skills gap and how best to prepare students to fill the gap. The event was held at the Microsoft offices in Edinbugh, and was well attended with 18 colleges represented.

The keynote was given by Polly Purvis, of Scotland IS, who set the tone for the day. Polly pointed out that 45,000 new IT jobs will be created in Scotland in the next five years; that the rate of growth of IT jobs will be fives times the average job rate; and that only 18.5% of the current IT workforce is made up of women. She also highlighted the areas of acute shortage, which include: programming, data security, IT project management, and IT sales/marketing. Polly also commented on the "digital economy" and the need for a digitally skilled workforce - in all sectors.

Many of the other speakers, myself included, echoed these views. For my own part, I explained what SQA was trying to do to fill the skills gap, with initiatives like DIVA, regular updates to qualifications (including the introduction of new ones such as HND Computer Science), and engagement with employers through the Sector Panel.

I returned to Polly's theme of the importance of digital skills and took the opportunity to announce a new suite of awards entitled Digital Passport. These new NPA awards (at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6) are designed to address digital literacy skills. I described it as the "most advanced digital literacy qualification in the UK", which, I believe, it will be when it is launched early next year alongside the refreshed PC Passport qualifications. More information will follow.

Contact me if you want to know more about DIVA, contact Caroline if you want to know more about the updated HN awards, or contact Hilary for more information about Digital Passport.