The 4th edition of Amazing Things – the guide to youth awards in Scotland has been launched by the Awards Network to coincide with the 2017 Scottish Learning Festival. Featuring 26 youth award providers and more than double the number of youth awards than the previous edition, it is packed with information that will help young people, educators and employers to learn more about youth awards and how they contribute to young people’s learning, life and work skills development.
Commenting on Amazing Things, Graeme Logan, Chief Inspector of Education, encourages ‘everyone who works with young people – in schools, youth work settings, further education or in the workplace to make best use of this excellent resource’.
In his Foreword to Amazing Things, John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, highlights the important contribution that youth awards make to raising attainment and to developing key skills valued by employers. Hugh Aitken CBE, CBI Scotland Director, echoes these remarks, commending youth awards for helping young people develop a ‘can do attitude – exactly what we (employers) want to see in the workforce’.
A keynote contribution from Jim Thewliss, General Secretary of School Leaders Scotland, notes how youth awards have developed ‘from curriculum enhancements to fundamental building blocks’.
And from young people themselves:
Graeme – “Gaining my award is an amazing achievement. I have learned so many new skills, met so many new friends and this has boosted my confidence”
Stephanie – “From self-management to making the most of new opportunities (my award) has given me the chance to grow as a person”
Amazing Things features 48 award programmes, many providing multiple levels of progression and almost half delivering formal qualifications. Find out about key award elements, age ranges, distinctive features, skills and competences and links to other awards.
Copies of Amazing Things 4 can be ordered by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or downloaded from the Awards Network website.
It has been recognised for some time now that there are two curriculums at play in any school or learning setting. Firstly, there is the formal curriculum and structures that shape the learning activities and experiences of the learners, which are common to schools and establishments across any system, as well systems themselves. These may include curricular areas, teaching strategies employed, school structures and the formal rules created by schools. The second however, is not so visible but is at play constantly across schools and systems. This is what has been described as the 'hidden curriculum'. This is the practices, experiences, attitudes, behaviours and biases that permeate any school, or system, and which send out messages to learners and families about what a school, or a system, really thinks is important as it brings true values, principles and ethics out into the open.
Having been a primary school leader for almost twenty years, I came to recognise the power and the importance of this hidden curriculum to everything we do in our schools. In my experience, school leaders, teachers, support staff, and others, spend a lot of their conscious time and energies dealing with aspects of this hidden curriculum as they understand its power and importance in eventually helping learners engage and succeed with more formal curriculum structures and learning. What concerned myself and others was that the time we spent prioritising, and taking action, within this hidden curriculum was rarely recognised or valued by others from outside who sought to assess or measure the effectiveness of our efforts.
It is a lot easier to see and try to measure progress in aspects of the overt formal curriculum than it is for the hidden one. We can put in place structures, systems and assessments which purport to measure and show progress with the formal curriculum a lot easier, even though those in the profession might challenge the validity of many of these claims, than it is to measure or recognise the work and progress schools and their staff are making within hidden, but vital, aspects of their activities. This, of course, is if you even recognise or value the importance of such activity.
There has been a quote going around for some time now that says something like 'we have to deal with the Maslov stuff before we can deal with the Bloom stuff.' I think this attributable to Katheryn Craig, but similar feelings have been expressed by others. This statement points to our need to address basic human needs in our learners, as identified by Abraham Maslov in one hierarchy, before we can address the learning and intellectual development identified in another by Benjamin Bloom. No matter what you think about either of these models of human development and behaviours, I do believe this linking of them both points towards a fundamental point of prioritisation for schools and their learners. When they have learners, who have not had, or are not having, those basic human needs addressed, or when they have been disrupted by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), attention has to be focused on these areas before we can hope to make any inroads and progress with the more formal curricular aspects of our work.
I see such a recognition as a staging point between the formal and informal, or hidden, curriculums, because when we are faced with learners who have not had their basic needs met, we have to be quite overt in helping and supporting them, before addressing their learning and intellectual needs. This then becomes part of the visible curriculum and activity of any school and many educators, though the time spent on addressing such issues is still not recognised, or valued, by many, especially those outside of the system. We are very much still focused on supporting the development of the whole child, and not just aspects, especially those most easy to test or measure. We deal with the complexity of this challenge daily and understand the challenge to show this to those not directly involved, or who lack understanding.
The hidden curriculum is much more than this though. It is contained within the culture that pervades each classroom, school and system, and it is sending out messages to learners continually. A lot of it is premeditated and thought about by educators, as a deliberate attempt to bring expressed values and ethics to life. But, there is also the unconscious thinking and biases that we might not recognise ourselves, but which our learners, and their families certainly do. The only way to deal with and think about these is to be aware that they exist, recognise their power, and to determine to reflect on and change when these when they are brought to light. If they are unconscious, you will not be aware of them until someone points them out or tells you they have experienced them. We all have them.
Taking a considered and informed decision as an individual educator, or as a school or system, to promote certain values and ethics, then to make them real, means you have to give these attention in all your actions, measuring all you do against these, as well as prioritising them ahead of other agendas. When you do this, it may deflect you from the more formal curriculum and practices that are so highly valued and easily measured. In my view, time spent in such areas and activity, is time well spent, especially in the early years of education, but whenever necessary, if we are to equip our young learners to succeed in their holistic development, and their ability to contribute as successful learners, responsible citizens, with sound physical, mental and social well-being.
If we are to be driven by our values in education, and I believe we should, then these are what drive our actions as well as our thinking. Your values are what you do, not what you say you do. You may express the desire to be fair and honest in your school values, but if some members of your school community fail to feel that is how you have been with them, then you have an issue to be addressed. It may be an individual issue or it may be a systemic one,
All of this takes time and is reflected in daily actions of individuals within and across schools. Relationships are key in school performance and time has to be spent maintaining and developing these at all levels for a school to achieve all that it can, for all its learners. In my experience, most schools recognise this and their days are filled with interactions and activities essential to the protection and development of a school's culture and ethos, upon which everything else stands or falls.
My main point in this post is that we know all this is going on every day, and this can be more demanding for some schools in areas of challenge or high deprivation, so how come all this deep and important work is hardly recognised or valued in many schools, until it is also reflected in percentages and grades? Important though attainment and exam results are, they are not the only determiners of a successful and achieving education, or life. My fear, and I have seen it expressed by others recently also, is that we are losing sight of the vital work happening in schools and systems every day, when we lose sight of the individuals in it and begin to view them as data-points. Data is made up of figures, percentages, percentiles, test scores and can be very useful to schools when used to inform actions, but our work and education is bigger than just this. Society, politicians and system leaders have to value the work going on that is not easily measured or quantified, but is vital in building positive relationships and equipping young learners to contribute meaningfully to society and their lives. I like the quote from the Character Education Frameworks of the Jubilee Centre at Birmingham University, and Character Scotland that states, 'we should help prepare students for the tests of life, rather than a life of tests.'
If we narrow our focus to only attainment agendas, then we lose many learners along the way, failing them, our schools and our systems. We should celebrate the fact that in schools every day people are going out of their way to work with and understand individual learners and their families, so as to better be able to support and help them, not just in their learning, but in becoming well-rounded, healthy human-beings able to succeed in lots of different ways. They are considering deeply what they do, how they think and the ways they impact on all those learner and families, determined to help and support to help them develop their own values and thinking.
There are still some who look to direct and impose their view of what a successful life looks like onto learners, then who make judgements about families and life-styles, not recognising the barriers and difficulties they create by doing so, never mind the fallibilities in their personal models. But, I like to think such establishments, and individuals, are in the minority, as most take a more empathetic and understanding stance which recognises their own imperfections rather than looking to find them in the learners and families they are supposed to serve.
All that I describe above, is happening in every school, across every day and every year. It strikes me that it seems that it is only the people who are directly involved in this process, who truly recognise it's happening and the impact it has. It is time others, including politicians, media and commentators, took notice and valued all that happens in our schools to help support young people find their way and place in society, so they are able to help re-shape that for the benefit off all in the future. This is not just about attainment and data, it is about people and life their fullest sense, and we ignore it at our peril.
We have an achievement gap in the UK, which is based not on ability but on background: children from wealthier backgrounds do better in our system. It’s a simple thing to say – and a very difficult thing to solve.
We do know some things about solving the problem, and one of them is that the solution doesn’t lie in the classroom. Schools and staff have done a very good job in narrowing the gap – but the gains that can be made in school have, for the most part, been made. We need to stop looking in the wrong place for the solution, and look where we can make a difference.
That means we need to be working with parents, and we need to be thinking about the home learning environment. I don’t mean getting parents into school (remember, the answer isn’t there) and I don’t really mean getting parents to help with homework. Both of those are good things but we’re already doing that, and we’re supporting a lot of parents – but not, perhaps, the parents who most need support.
If we want to help narrow the achievement gap, we need to help all parents know how to support learning outside of school – in the home, in the car, wherever they are with their children.
With younger children, that can mean letting parents know how important it is to read stories over, and over and over again, to support early literacy; how important stirring a cake and sprinkling decorations can be for developing the muscles that will help the child write, how important noticing print and numbers in daily life, and talking about them, are for being school ready. Even with teenagers, we know that fifteen minutes of conversation a week with parents, about social media, TV shows or movies, is correlated to how engaged those young people are with reading.
It’s about letting parents know how important they are to their children’s learning, and working with them to support that learning.
Of course, that means a sea change: schools, and their staff, have to realise how important learning outside the home is, and work to support it. That’s a new idea for a lot of people in schools, and we need to think carefully about how we do it.
And that brings me to the octopus in the title.
In David Attenborough’s series, The Hunt, he showed us that an octopus could drag itself out of the water and across land to the next rock pool. How many thousands – perhaps millions – of parents were answering questions about how far an octopus could go on land, the next morning on the way to school? That’s a prime example of the home learning environment, and it’s the sort of thing we can all support – and that we need to support, if we want to give all of our young people the best chance at life.
This week I have been lucky enough to have visited not one but TWO castles, have been learning about history teaching in lectures and have frankly loved every second of it. I went to visit family for the weekend in Northumberland and with them knowing how much I love history, going round the castles seemed […]
I’ve been using the PeakFinder app for a month or two now. It is a nice app for showing what hills are in view. Basically it give a ‘live’ wireframe of hilsl from your location or anywhere you like. All the features are listed PeakFinder App.
Today I opened the app and it must have been updated, because it gave me a message saying:
For a long time many of you have asked for an option to combine the image of the camera with the panorama drawing. l’ve finally implemented this feature in this newest version and so PeakFinder now also supports true augmented reality.
This is quite amazing, and in my tests it works a treat.
I think this is the first AR I’ve seen that makes be think this could really be useful and soon. It is not much of a stretch to imagine a botany app that can recognise flowers.
What is cool about peakfinder is that the data is loaded so that you do not need a connection to use the application.
[Micro.blog 1.1 is out](http://www.manton.org/2017/09/micro-blog-ios-1-1.html) and is a lovely application. I really like mobile apps that are elegantly simple.
Even if you don’t use micro.blog it is worth watching the [screencast](http://www.manton.org/2017/09/micro-blog-ios-1-1.html)
Using the micro.blog app for a few months has made me think about blogging from both technical and philosophical (not really sure if that is the right word) points of view.
The one of the main new feature of the app is support for longer posts and this leads to this test.
My own blog has developed layers of ‘cruft’ over the years and I’ve made a fair tangle in trying to separate [micro/status posts](http://johnjohnston.info/blog/type/status/) from longer ones.
I’ve now added a function or two to my blog which will look for a particular piece of text ‘wwwd’ with colons around it. If it finds it the posts format should be changed to standard and the category wwwd added. This should mean I can post longer posts, like this one, to the front page of my blog from the micro.blog app. Here goes…
One last highlight from my trip to the University of Liverpool that I didn’t manage to squeeze into my last blog post…This powerful statement on the outside of the Liverpool Guild of Students’ Union. Kudos to the students for their unambiguous message.
NSS – Don’t complete, hit delete, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell
A week has already flown by since the ALT Conference and I’ve still barely managed to gather my thoughts, so instead of a more considered blog post, here’s a quick summary of some of my highlights of the conference.
Bonnie Stewart, CC BY Chris Bull Photography
Live tweeting the conference keynotes is always an enjoyable challenge and this year was no exception. I was thrilled to hear Bonnie Stewart as I’ve followed her work on twitter for many years but had never had the pleasure of hearing her speak before. It’s hard to pick a single message from Bonnie’s thought provoking keynote, which explored concepts of openness and the construction of norms in higher education, but if I had to pick just one, it would be that open can help us to break down boundaries and binaries and challenge the prestige economy of Higher Education. Open may not be the solution, but it is the right trajectory, and somewhere along that trajectory are the results we will reap in ten years time.
Sian Bayne also presented a fascinating keynote that explored critical issues of digital identity sanctuary and anonymity through a study of use of the now defunct anonymous social media platform Yik Yak by students at the University of Edinburgh. Sian has written an article based on her keynote for WonkHE which I can highly recommend.
Sian Bayne, CC BY, Chris Bull Photography
“With growing social awareness of what’s at stake in losing our anonymity online, perhaps this is the moment to look again at institutional policies and resources regarding student wellbeing, mental health, counselling and pastoral support, and think about how these would benefit from a wide and open discussion around the value of anonymity, and of digital sanctuary for our students.”
There were a significant number of talks about lecture recording at the conference this year and as we’re currently in the process of rolling out a new lecture recording system at the University of Edinburgh, Media Hopper Replay, I tried to catch as many of those as possible. One that I found particularly interesting was Lecture Recording – Is more always better? by Alison Reid of the Univeristy of Liverpool who explored the impact of lecture recording on less able students who are already struggling with workload. While recorded lectures are a valuable safety net for many students, for those who are already feeling overwhelmed they can be an additional source of stress and anxiety as they often don’t have time to watch the recording end to end. Furthermore, low achieving students can become even more isolated if they rely too heavily on lecture recording. The solution is to provide more peer support and study skills workshops, and to increase aspects of teaching that encourage interactivity and which can’t be captured with recording.
I also managed to catch two really interesting talks on open education. Gabbi Whitthaus presented and absolutely fascinating comparative textual analysis of the TEF Whitepaper and the EU Policy Report Opening up Education: A Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions. The TEF paper is all about competition and is filled with sporting metaphors about winners and losers. It talks about service providers, customers, provision. EU report on the other hand presents open education as a universal good, talking about removing barriers and widening access however it also employs a false binary between open and closed. Oddly the TEF Whitepaper does not define “teaching excellence” and in 34,000 words only mentions the word “academics” three times!
Leo Havemann also facilitated a really engaging workshop exploring definitions of openness in education. Leo encouraged us to think of open as more than an adjective; open is also a verb, a continual practice and he reminded us that openness and closedness are not a binary dichotomy, there is a continuum between them.
Maren Deepwell, Josie Fraser, Martin Weller, CC BY, Chris Bull Photography
Perhaps my personal highlight of the conference though was seeing former Learning Technologist of the Year and Chair of Wikimedia UK, Josie Fraser receive Honorary Life Membership of ALT in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the learning technology community. Josie has been a good friend and an enduring inspiration to me for many years and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this prestigious award.
And of course is was an absolute delight to see Maren Deepwell, the rest of the ALT team and the ALT Social Media Supergroup. If Rich Goodman and I were the Social side of the supergroup, the Media side, Martin Hawksey, Chris Bull and Scott Farrow were so discrete you barely noticed they were there, but of course they were the ones who did all the hard work of filming and photographing the conference and keeping the livestream up and running and as always they did an exemplary job. Chris even managed to take a picture of me that doesn’t make me cringe :}
I’ve been spending most of my evenings this week looking through photographs on old laptops, not because I’ve been overtaken by a fit of nostalgia, the reason I’m trawling through old holiday snaps is that I’m looking out pictures to submit to this year’s Wiki Loves Monuments competition. And as a former archaeologist, monuments feature very heavily among my holiday pics :}
Wiki Loves Monuments is the worlds biggest photography competition which runs annually during the whole month of September. The rules are simple, all you have to do is upload a high quality picture of a scheduled monument or listed building to Wiikimedia Commons through one of the competition upload interfaces. You can browse monuments to photograph using this interactive map, or you can search for monuments using this interface, this is the one I’ve been using but it’s all a matter of preference. The competition is open to amateurs and professionals alike and you don’t even need a camera to enter, mobile phone pictures are fine as long as they’re of decent quality. You can enter as many times as you like, and you can submit entires taken anywhere in the world as long as you own the copyright and are willing to share them under a CC BY SA licence.
I’ve been meaning to enter Wiki Loves Monuments for years and it’s in no small part due to the persuasive powers of my colleague Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, that I’ve finally got my act together to enter. A little healthy competition with our Celtic cousins also hasn’t done any harm….At the time of writing Wales had 510 entries, Scotland 289, Ireland 197. You know what you need to do :}
involved five universities in leading a project based in the Open University in Scotland. Its aims were to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland, and to enhance capacity for developing publicly available online materials across the tertiary education sector in Scotland. The project particularly focused on fostering the use of open educational practices to build capacity and promote widening participation.
There have always been questions about this project, notably the funnelling of money to the OU without any sign of an open bidding process, but at least it was there. With the OEPS finishing, two things caught my attention: how do we get political support for open education, and what open educational practice is current in Scotland. To paraphrase Orwell: if there is hope, it lies in the grass roots [hmm, that didn’t end well for Winston].
Open Education in Policy
Good places to start looking for current practice at both policy and operational levels are the ALT-Scotland SIG and Scottish Open Education Declaration. There are strong links between the two: key members of ALT-Scotland (notably Lorna M Campbell and Joe Wilson) are involved in developing and promoting Scottish Open Education Declaration; and OEPS also supported some of this work. The Scottish Open Education Declaration and ALT-Scotland have been successful in supporting policy in Scottish HE around open education, and beyond, but it would be nice if this success were recognised and supported from outside of the Open Education community.
It’s disappointing that there’s been no substantive engagement with this from Scot Gov, how do we get this up the agenda? #beOpenhttps://t.co/sbbAiF4FNE
It seems you only get recognised at a political level if you claim to be able solve big problems: local and global inequalities, widening educational participation. Anyone who says Open Education will solve these inequalities is a charlatan, anyone who believes them is gullible. As Pete Cannell of OEPS said, open as in licensing content is not the whole answer (to widening participation) but it is important part of answer.
Open Education in Practice
More hopefully, there is a lot happening at grass roots level that is easy to overlook. Edinburgh University are leading the way, with central support and a vision. As I saw, they are producing some fine OERs created by student interns.
A similar model for production is being used in my old workplace of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University, but with less by way of strategic support. A small team of content interns, working under Lisa Scott, have been using open tools (WordPress, H5P, Lumen5) to create learning resources for the new Graduate Level Apprenticeship programme in Software Development. The actual course is closed, delivered in BlackBoard, but the resources are openly licensed and available to all (this not only allows the team to use CC:SA resources in their creation but saves the hassle of setting up access management to the collection).
Like Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian University has a policy for OER and a repository replete with resources, but the examples I found seemed locked for local use only. That’s not a criticism (and I may just have been unlucky in what I tried to view) because the important thing is that here is an example of open supporting the work of one of our Universities.
There are probably other examples from Scottish F&HE that I don’t know or have forgotten (sorry about that–but do use the comment box below to remedy this), but one of the key messages from the Promise of Open Education meeting was that Open Educational Practice is not just about Universities giving access to resources they create, valuable as that is. There were great examples presented at the conference of OEPS working with Dyslexia Uk and Education Scotland, and working with Parkinson’s UK. And in the final discussion Lorna Campbell did a great job of highlighting the variety of open educational practice in Scotland, from Scotland’s three Wikimedians in residence and networks such as Girl Geek Scotland. And that really is just the tip of the iceberg.
So, in conclusion, this was not the end of open educational practices in Scotland. The future lies not just in continuing the legacy of one project, but in the ongoing efforts of a great diversity of effort. But you know what, it would be really nice if those efforts got the recognition and support from national policy makers.
[Acknowledgement: the feature image for this post, which you may see in Tweets etc, is the conference pack for OEPS Promise of Open Education. Courtesy of OEPS project.]