HND Games – Give us Your Opinion

The Scottish Qualifications Authority are currently working on creating a new qualification – HND Games Development. As part of the process it is important that we get as many views as possible on what is required. To do that we would appreciate it if you could complete the following survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=60ncuuOlp73guIcbtAIOrA_3d_3d

It’s very short with less than a dozen questions and will take less than three minutes of your time but will be invaluable in structuring this award.

The survey will close at 5pm on the 5th of May so please don’t hesitate to follow the link and complete the survey.

Click Here to take survey

Thanks in advance.

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Area #6 – Inspection Regime

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Image via WikipediaThere is a clear understanding that HMIe should inspect and ensure that teaching and learning are well implemented. In general this is the case throughout the country’s Computing departments but Computing often falls down in the concomitant performance indicators.

Where departments show good teaching and learning and the associated pastoral support of students, judgements should reflect more significantly that fact and poor attainment should be seen in the context of Computing across schools, colleges, HE and other countries as this is not a localised issue.

If this does not change, departments will further move towards choosing students solely on the likelihood of their passing the course. The knock-on effect for colleges, which have traditionally been the place for second chances, and the students, who have benefitted from those chances, will be significant. There will be a reduction in opportunities for those who wish to return to full or part time learning as the risks for the departments will be too high.

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Area #1 – Practitioners

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Image by confusedvision via FlickrIt was clear during our workshops on the future of computing that everyone knew exactly where the problem lay and, of course, it was never with us, the practitioners. It seems right, therefore, that I start this short series by addressing an area where we as practitioners can change.

The flexibility of courses offered by colleges is intimately bound to the skills and competencies of the staff. Too often, however, the provision of courses is hindered by the lack of available skills and the unwillingness of practitioners to expand their skill base.

The apotheosis of this is the situation, all too common throughout the country, where practitioners have ‘their subjects’ or, at the extreme, where practitioners keep the same timetable for several years.

This is not to say that practitioners should not have their specialist subjects. Computing is too broad to allow an in depth knowledge of all aspects of computing. It is vital, that to fully address the ongoing challenges facing Computing, practitioners become, and remain, as flexible as possible.

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Be Realistic

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Image by Getty Images via DaylifeWhat’s the first thing that Computing practitioners should do? Be realistic.

Computing took great advantage of a boom in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This boom was fuelled by many reasons including the massive uptake of computers in general business, the millennium bug, the dot.com boom etc.

This boom led to a large increase in the number of course offered and the number of computing professionals added to the pool. The pool of professionals has now reached a natural plateau where the requirement, at HNC and HND level, is mainly to refresh the pool of talent rather than expand it.

Computing as a high-end technical subject has less potential for attracting students than IT as a business support subject. Therefore consideration should be given to Computing departments teaching IT subjects that are embedded in other curricular areas such as Business Management programmes to ensure their quality and viability.

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Computing vs IT

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Image via WikipediaFollowing yesterday’s post and in advance of the next few I think it is necessary to define what I mean by Computing.

For the purposes of this blog, differentiation is made between Computing (a technical discipline where programming is an example of a subject that might comprise one part of an award) and IT (as within a business discipline including areas such as word processing).

This blog concentrates on the challenges and opportunities facing Computing departments teaching Computing subjects.

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Scottish Computing – An Agenda for Change

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Image via WikipediaAs we start a new year it seems an apposite time to spark a discussion on the way forward for the teaching of Computing in Scotland.

In my work with the SFEU (now Scotland’s Colleges) I have been involved in conferences and workshops that address that very question. As ever, though, it is easy for fingers to point everywhere except at oneself.

Over the next few days I will be posting on several areas where I believe that we can make a difference to Computing provision. The suggestions are not in order of priority, nor are they definitive or even complete. They are, and should be taken for, discussion points and jumping off points for progression. They include suggestions for:

The numbers choosing Computing as a subject, end hence as a profession, are dwindling. We must take action now if we expect a future for the teaching of Computing in Scotland.

This agenda for action was created following two SFEU events. The first, in June 2008, attracted over one hundred Computing practitioners from Scotland’s colleges. The standout workshop at that event was concerned with the fall in recruitment, retention and attainment in Computing throughout Scotland’s colleges.

This workshop prompted a follow-up event held at SFEU and attracting representatives from almost half of Scotland’s colleges – an indication of the level of concern throughout the sector.

At the events several challenges were discussed and various strategies suggested. What was clear, however, was that no one stakeholder group was able to take the actions necessary to address these challenges. This document continues the discussion and suggests strategies for moving forward.

It is intended to stimulate debate and initiate responses. There may be items that you may disagree with and approaches that you consider to be inappropriate – please indicate this if it is the case and, of course, make alternative suggestions. These issues need addressed and it needs to happen now.

Read the suggestions, digest the ideas and respond, either in public or in private. You have the future in your hands.

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SQA Web Site Revamp

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The SQA have engaged in a long overdue revamp of their web site. This includes grouping all related areas together in one page for easy access to much of the information that’s available for that subject.

Let’s just say it’s better than it was before.

SQA – Computing, IT & Related Areas

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Is Cloud Computing Safe?

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I bow to no-one in my admiration of Richard Stallman. Anyone who can found the Free Software Foundation as well as creating GNU (as in GNU-Linux, the bit that does most of the work) is well worth listening to. So when he talks about cloud computing being potentially dangerous it is as well to stop and listen.

Although hearing anyone use a phrase like “worse than stupidity” gives pause for thought. And not in a good way.

The gist of the argument is that computing in the cloud, whether mail via GMail or documents stored on Zoho, are a trap. In the same way that traditional software applications forced you into using their software (I’m looking at you WordPerfect), cloud computing may trap your data.

And that’s true; as far as it goes. However this is not a criticism of cloud computing. It’s a criticism of anyone who doesn’t properly back up their data. That’s a problem whether you use Notepad and save your data on a floppy disk or photos stored on Flickr.

As it happens I’m a big fan of cloud computing. As almost every computer I have has a net connection it saves messing about with floppies, pen drives or external hard disks. I’m not stupid enough, however, to trust that my data will always be there. Even Amazon, who have a history of reliable web services, had a glitch that knocked out their S3 data storage service for a working day.

If I turn up to give a presentation I have e-mailed myself a copy, saved it on Mozy, have a copy on various on-line services and kept a copy on a pen drive attached to my key-ring. In other words I don’t make it out the door and into my car if I don’t have my data.

It’s frustrating that this far into the history of computing people are still writing “Back up your data or you’ll be sorry” articles. Even more frustrating when the person saying it has written the back up software themselves.

EDIT: Richard Stallman must have the computing gods working for him. Just as I tried to post this my net connection went down. I’m sorry Richard. Please don’t hurt me again.

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder | Technology | guardian.co.uk

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Last Call for Computing Conference

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Following on from the SFEU‘s Computing Conference in June, (what do you mean you weren’t there – it was great!) this Thursday, the 18th of September, sees an event focussed on Recruitment, Attainment and Retention in Computing.

We have speakers from the SFEU, SQA, HMIe and the University of Strathclyde together with plenty of workshops on the programme.

Hopefully you’ll leave bristling with new ideas to make your department as successful as it can possibly be.

Registration closes soon so get moving and I’ll see you on the 18th.

From the SFEU website: The challenges facing computing staff in all of Scotland’s 43 colleges have never been greater, with continuous demands on lecturing staff to keep abreast of an evolving curriculum, emerging technologies and new computing subjects. In addition, staff members need to consider the profile of their learners and their varying expectations, the fact that performance indicators continue to be low compared to other areas across the sector, and that computing recruitment is slipping. Despite such challenges, there is an abundance of good practice and success stories in computing. It is important to harness such practice and help practitioners implement these successes elsewhere. To achieve this, it is essential that computing practitioners work together with learners, policy holders, awarding bodies and employers.

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