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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That was a week that was.

Only third week into new year and I got to spend it all in Scotland.

On Monday I met with the Scottish Funding Council and reviewed their new statistical reporting tool for Colleges and looked at how it could support our development teams within SQA. Anniesland College’s Board of Management would get a lot from it too. With this information SQA will be able to target QA processes much more cost effectively and exactingly across the College sector. The Board at Anniesland will be able to benchmark the Colleges performance in number of areas.

Then went on to Edinburgh to meet the Scottish Chartered Institute of Bankers who we work closely with on a number of fronts I hope soon we will be working with schools in the same way we work in the vocational and college spaces.

Tuesday was meeting with the Scottish Training Federation ( STF Members who are employers and training providers deliver 80% of all SVQs in Scotland) . We work closely with them and we were bracing ourselves for Gordon Brown’s announcement this week. The Herald almost got it right. We have done all this and more in Scotland for a lot of years. McDonalds Degrees are not new things I know a few leading entrepreneurs who have them. They needed them to run the early franchises as they arrived in Scotland. We need to fix this gulf in understanding between academic and vocational systems. The misplaced arrogance on the academic side could do long term economic damage to our economy.

Wednesday a meeting with Scottish Government on the National Certificate and National Progression Awards and then on to an evening meeting related to what comes next in vocational computing with some well informed overseas visitors. Always a hot topic.

Thursday I hooked up with the Scottish Further Education Unit to review some joint work and then completed some of our internal Performance Management Review meetings. It is that time of year and everyone’s hit all our targets and more.

Friday was a wet drive to Dunfermline to first conference on roll out of new National Certificates. Very heartening presence of a large number of local authorities at this I think we may find that these are taken up in Schools and Colleges. These developments will drive on vocational education in Colleges but are very accessible for schools and then back through the rain to meet Learn Direct Scotland to review some joint programmes.

Fitting for 25th of January and Burns Night

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley”

I then came down with a Fungus the Bogey Man sized cold. If you catch it you’ll know. I have been a human slug for four days. I even had to forego my haggis and have a curry with my dram but I hope to see my desk tomorrow .

Thanks to Paulus Maximus for Red Rabbie


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The National Education Network


I took a photo of this graphic when I was down in London at BETT and meant to have a look at some of the resources behind the different front doors. I have linked it to snazzy flash map on the home page of the NEN I shared a platform in November 2006 with Jimmy Stewart the Chief Executive of C2K at the Microsoft Global Schools for the Future Summit and was particularly impressed by progress in Northern Ireland .

It's worth looking at the services on offer in different parts of UK . It is four years since I arrived at SQA and stopped following the developments across what was then the National Grid for Learning - some of the regions still have names that echo this - but the services seem to have moved on in many of these regions. At least from evidence on the front doors. Some could be all fur coats and nae .. as we say in the West , but you can see why a few of the regions are interested in the Internet Safety Award.. Internet Safety and resources for this feature on almost all of these portals

clipped from www.nen.gov.uk

The NEN is the UK collaborative network for education, providing schools with a safe, secure and reliable learning environment and direct access to a growing range of online services and content. More...



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Sunday, January 20, 2008

SQA DIVA , World Economic Forum , UNESCO and DAVOS

While I was on my travels this arrived

The World Economic Forum and UNESCO have created the Partnerships for Education Initiative, which is designed to share understandings of Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships for Education, and to advocate for their wider implementation to help deliver the Education for All goals.

One of the outputs of Partnerships for Education is an interactive database of existing Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships for Education (MSPEs). This is intended to be a platform where knowledge about such initiatives can be shared, and where those interested in implementing future partnerships can glean relevant information about how best to deliver them.

This database will be launched at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos in January 2008, and we are currently populating it with examples of some of the most important existing MSPEs. Your DIVA Scotland initiative has been selected for inclusion within the database.


Great news for team and all our partners.

Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi


Emirates Palace
Originally uploaded by joecar80
On domestic front not the best way to start the new season with being away from home two nights last week and three nights this .In total I spent 36 Hours in United Arab Emirates and 20 in the air. It rained continuously for 30 of those I spent on the ground . I arrived with the first heavy rain they have had in the last two years. Made for a late arrival, my flight was initially diverted to Muscat - where I see thanks to John Connell, the weather was good - and then had a terrifying journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. I understand the norm is to drive at 80 miles an hour tail gateing the car in front, my driver refused to vary from this in the deeply inclement conditions ( wetter than a wet day in Argyll) - we passed four pile ups in our direction of travel and spotted at least two on other carriageway. Made for white knuckle ride.

Delay also meant I went straight from the Airport to conference

We have a number of centres in this region doing Oil and Gas related awards but my visit was as a guest at an Economist Conference on World Challenges in 2008 I stayed awake partly due to the splendid surroundings. The Emirates Palace is one of only two seven star hotels in the world but mainly due the the quality and relevance of the presentations.

I can only bullet these - but the main worry is the well documented ongoing world credit crisis, combined with threats of global inflation Oil was clearly highlighted but prices of staple goods in China and developing parts of world have risen by 40-70% in last year. Oil price also gives local economy challenge in way that would be envied around rest of world - oil as moved from $12 to $100 per barrel in short space of time. They are faced with what was described as an an investment challenge.
  • On other fronts worries that Chinese economy is covering some economic challenges until post Olympics
  • That next Google maybe in Bio Sciences
  • That Sovereign Wealth Funds and other investors with surpluses are facing political protectionist challenges around the world ( globalisation needs global markets)
  • One example - 3 years ago most commercial property in Germany was bought by Germans last year 80% was bought by international buyers. This model is replicated in many markets
  • Global Shortage of business Leaders who understand business
  • NATO presentation on danger of new conflicts over global resources at time where we particularly in west are wasting enormous amounts of energy and other inputs that still go into landfill.
At the end of day I slunk back to my more usual budget accommodation and managed a quick sweep around town on following morning before I started my return trip. Dubai and particularly Abu Dhabi are what can only be described as boom towns with all the lures and downsides of this process. I met many from around the world on the make and many fantastic Arabs who are the humblest of peoples.

We work hard to keep our vocational portfolio aligned with both UK and Global Demands. Would that more folks in Scottish Education were aware of the dramatic changes in Beijing and places like this . If you want to drive the world's tallest crane, hone your hospitality skills to the highest standards, develop businesses in very short time frames or memorably in Beijing give every street trader a basic on-line food hygiene programme in advance of Olympics you will learn these skills in the developing world not in our own backyards anymore. Education and Training is a global marketplace and I am glad we're out there.

BETT 2008 The UK Educational Technology Fair


I attended this with Bobby Elliott Qualifications Manager for Computing . We use this event as an opportunity to meet many of the senior US based managers of our vendor partners. We had some really useful meetings with Adobe and Microsoft and some others including some other awarding bodies and Financial Institutions as I was in the hood. A search for BETT 2008 Blog will turn up multiple reviews of this event.

While we spent most of our time in meetings here are some observations on the event. The audience for this event is schools and ICT advisors from English local authorities with a growing international presence - overseas teachers and ICT advisors. It is a larger version of Scottish SETT now the Scottish Learning Festival. Great to see Martin Jack ex LTScotland organising chunk of this as he successfully does for Scottish Learning Festival.

The Ministerial key note was message that schools in England are to give parents access to electronic reports both on progress and attendance. There were number of organisations present trying to sell systems like this to local authorities on the back of this announcement. Moving around stands many of them were devoted to School or local authority admin systems rather than teaching and learning. There were some organisations offering totally externally hosted admin and learning and teaching platforms - some very clever stuff. The Pupils have equivalent of very large data stick flash drive with their own files on this and it connects in school and at home to the remotely hosted services and software. This was probably main innovation I saw but I didn't see the price tag.

MIAP was being heavily promoted - through presentations and on stands. The new 14-18 Diplomas were too - The Scottish Candidate Number and Skills for Work are ahead of these projects in Scotland. But would be taken as whinging Jock to state this anywhere south of border.

Only thing I would have liked to play with was probably the Asus EePC / RM Minibook which is well reviewed well here by John Connell and Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Met with many colleagues and friends from over the years - but have to say there was not as much innovative stuff about as say five years ago. Mostly more of the same - real message may be in how offerings are joining up or being bought up.

On many fronts there was strong evidence of partnership working across suppliers of qualifications, electronic learning materials and more traditional text books and everywhere the slickest of marketing - interactive presentations , live demonstrations of web- based resources, on-line tests and much more. I know we do things differently in Scotland but we would do well to make more links with private and public sector partners around qualifications. It was good to meet Colleagues from LTScotland and Learndirect Scotland at event.

Sorry that we missed Teachmeet on Friday Night - looks like it was a great success. But not the best night even for this hardened traveller with two kids under five an extra Friday night in London just takes too many brownie points. You can catch it here on flash meeting if you have a look around at http://www.teachmeet.org.uk/

And we didn't win Bett Award for the Sports Store Game - but being shortlisted was some achievement real achievement is fantastic reception the game has had across Scotland and beyond,

I took some photographs of event. Incidentally camera was giveaway from the Pearson stand - given away as I sat through a presentation on their School Admin Software. Came in handy and I uploaded them on way back up road http://www.flickr.com/photos/joecar/ Would be good to have central Scottish repository for some of this stuff.

New Year Message


I have had a busy couple of weeks - either out of the office or back to back meetings with usual follow ups.

I have been watching a few postings with interest over the festive period. New Year seems either the time to cast an eye backwards to all things that have happened over the year or to look forward and make some predictions. There seem few Scots predicting the future mainly gazing back the way. Some notable blogs doing this though. Ewan McIntosh gives an excellent backward glance on his meteoric year on a personal and professional front.

In the mid 1990’s I predicted every Scottish Teacher would by 2000 have their own web page, their teaching materials would be swiftly transferred from their floppy disks (remember the big ones ) and they would be using these with learners who would be able to use this resource in a host of ways. Learners would start creating their own learning resources too and sharing these…

I started blogging in 2000 with a small group of enthusiasts. I thought too that this would sweep through education by 2001. I stopped blogging in 2003 and only started again in late 2006. This time I feel more part of a community thanks to Scotedublogs and there is a bit more of a critical mass, but the changes that I think are inevitable still seem further off than I would like in Scotland.

So given my terrible track record - here's how I see the vocational on-line learning world in Scotland.

I’d say the vocational sector have got it to some degree, Colleges are a bit behind but moving in right direction, Universities have got it in places but their faculties pull them in twenty directions at once and schools lag further behind in changing how we fundamentally do things . This could be metaphor for all things vocational but it seems in such sharp focus when you look at the adoption rate of technology to empower learners. I hope with GLOW this really changes this year. Would be good to see schools have standard access to Blogger and some other very relevant tools and I hope this happens this year too.

Predictions I like best are from an old friend Seb Schmoller -

  1. Effective use of RSS by learners, teachers, and learning providers will become more normal. Meanwhile the off-line capabilities of browser-based applications like Google Reader will grow, making a big difference for users with only intermittent Internet access.
  2. The hype surrounding social networking will abate, with a greater understanding developing about when social networking supports learning, and when it is a distraction.
  3. Many more people will break free from Windows or OSX based systems, and begin to rely instead on cheaper, lighter, disk-free devices, with their "stuff" stored somewhere on the Internet rather than locally.
My personal prediction is that learning will just get better and better for those learners and teachers who are part of the connected world in Colleges, Training Providers, Schools , Libraries , Learning Centres and for those at home too.

Those who aren't connected will still feel there is some conspiracy going on. I couldn't live without bloglines and other tools to stay well informed. My blogroll is on side of this blog.

The Times Educational Supplement is still critical but increasingly a smaller part of my environmental scanning . And I worry that grumpy middle age is upon me as I have less and less time for those who aren't up to speed and getting in the way of change. I hope I am less grumpy next year ;-) and more people across Scottish Education have access to these tools. Happy New Year to all.