Monthly Archives: February 2019

Improving versus proving⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

During the first two months of 2019 I have been able to attend a number of professional learning events across Scotland. What has been impressive about these events is, not only the breadth and range of development activity taking place across the system, but also the commitment, professionalism and determination of people to getting better at what they do.

What such events also provide, is the opportunity to develop my own thinking and understanding, through listening to the experiences of others and engage in a dialogue around the issues, experiences and insights of different participants. I believe that professional learning with the greatest impacts, should produce changes in facilitators and leaders, not just the participants.

This week I was facilitating a session on parental engagement, on behalf of Connect the parent/teacher organisation in Scotland. This session was with school leaders, and others who had responsibility for this particular area of school development. What I hope to do in this post is share some of the main insights from this event, combined with some further musings following the event.

In the session, I pointed out that Connect, and myself, see parental engagement as part of a continuum of interaction between parents, or significant adults in a young person's life, and schools and the education system. It starts with parental involvement with their child's school and teachers, moving through to parental engagement and then  into wider family engagement. Each of these builds on from that initial involvement with schools by parents, demonstrating interest and willingness to support the work of the school, through to engagement, which enables parents, families and wider community to be able to better support the learning of young people, through working in true partnership.

Of course, some schools and parents never get much beyond the initial involvement stage. That is not to say such involvement is not a valuable aspect of school/parental relationships, but what we do know is that if we can move this on, to one focused on engagement with a purpose, we can support our young learners to achieve even higher, whilst addressing many of the major issues we seek to deal with, including equity and wellbeing.

Alma Harris and Janet Goodall wrote in 2007,  'Parental engagement in supporting learning in the home is the single most important changeable factor in student achievement.' There has been a whole swathe of similar research conclusions, and is possibly why so much government policy in Scotland aims to support such change. In the light of this research base, we would be derelict in our duty as educators if we didn't seek to tap into the potential offered.

I would qualify this by adding, this is not about more things for schools, teachers, or their leaders to do. We have to keep proportionality and manageability to the forefront of our thinking and our practice in this area, as in every other. For schools to make a difference in this area, they need to think, discuss, plan and implement a process of managed growth in partnership with parents and others. It may well be that consideration has to be given of which activities we need to stop doing, which have less impact, to give the time and space for others which can be more helpful to all. What is certain is that time is required to move our progress on, step by step. This will be no quick-fix.

However, this post is not about the merits or otherwise of parental engagement processes and activity in general. This week's session looked specifically about how schools might go about evaluating the impact of such activities. Having worked with many schools across Scotland, Connect had become aware that many were struggling to evaluate the impact of  the fabulous work already happening. The most common form of evaluation consisted of counting how many people turned up for events. This has some limited value, but does not provide schools with deep or higher-order evaluation data or feedback.

The key messages we discussed were that schools already have a lot of qualative data and information about pupils and they should tap into this, before they seek any more information. Schools have lots of assessment information, diagnostic data, standardised screening results, and so on that they can use to track pupil progress over time, and following different interventions. Connect have sought to develop a simple toolkit of evaluation activities, linked to possible parental engagement activity, and these aim to be easy to use, simple to understand, but which could provide schools with a lot of useful information.

Think of the electronic smiley faces waiting for you as you pass through the security checks at any airport. These have become part of our flying experience, they are simple to use, require no reading and very little time from customers. But, they provide airports and airlines with a vast array of useful information. Are customers generally happy? Does this vary according to time of day/week/month? Is it different when different airlines have flights? Are the results consistent for different crews manning the security checks. It goes on. When the results are collated, it will allow airlines to pinpoint issues, look further at these, make changes, then see if passengers feel the improvements.

You can use similar approaches when considering evaluating parental engagement activity, so that you have good useful information to work with. Schools need to be slightly different in the approach  taken to evaluation at airports, because it is very important that they view evaluation as part of an on-going, continuous process. Evaluation becomes less meaningful or impactful when it is viewed as an event, usually at the end of something, rather than as part of a process, that needs to be built in at the outset of any development. If you don't know where you are starting from, how will you know if you have made an impact? If you don't evaluate as you go, how can you adjust and shape what you are doing?

If you get your approach to evaluation right, you should have a lot of high quality information about the work you have been undertaking with parents, and you are better able to evidence that for various audiences. This is not however, about collecting data so that you can prove what you have done or have been doing. Evaluation is first and foremost for the evaluators. It is to tell you where you are. It is to show you what you have achieved. It is to demonstrate your impact. Most importantly, it is to help you identify the next steps you need to take. Its not about proving, but about improving. The proving aspect, is merely a by-product of your improvement processes.

Perhaps, we still spend too much time collecting data and information, so that we can present this to various 'audiences' in the system, and in doing so we lose sight of evaluation's true purpose and usefulness. Evaluating and collecting data should not be viewed as the end of a process, but as the beginning of another one. Evaluating and collecting data so that you have it ready to prove what you have done, may keep you out of trouble with the system police and judges, but even they may ask, 'so what?' What you reply is important to you, them, but most importantly, your learners.

You can find more information about Connect at or @connect_scot on Twitter
Janet Goodall is hosting a Twitter chat around parental engagement  on 12 March 8-8.45pm GMT


Talent marketplace signalling and JobPostings⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

For some time now I have been involved in the Data Working Group of the Jobs Data Exchange (JDX) project. That project aims to help employers and technology partners better describe their job positions and hiring requirements in a machine readable format. This will allow employers to send clearer signals to individuals, recruitment, educational and training organizations about the skills and qualifications that are in demand.  The data model behind JDX, which has been developed largely by Stuart Sutton working with representatives from the HR Open Standards body, leverages terms where possible. Through the development of this data model, as well as from other input, we have many ideas for guidance on, and improvements to the JobPosting schema. In order to advance those ideas through a broader community and feed them back to, we have now created the Talent Marketplace Signaling W3C Community Group.

In the long term I hope that the better expression of job requirements in the same framework as can be used to describe qualifications and educational courses will lead to better understanding and analysis of what is required and provided where, and to improvements in educational and occupational prospects for individuals.circles and lines representing entity-relationship domain models


About the Talent Marketplace Signaling Community Group

Currently, workforce signaling sits at the intersection of a number of existing types: Course, JobPosting, Occupation, Organization, Person and the proposed EducationalOccupationalCredential. The TalentSignal Community Group will focus initially on the JobPosting Schema and related types. I think the TalentSignal CG can help by:

  • providing guidance on how to use existing terms to describe JobPostings;
  • proposing refinements (e.g. improved definitions) to existing types serving the talent pipeline; and
  • suggesting new types and properties where improved signaling cannot otherwise be achieved.

I hope that the outcomes of this work will be discrete improvements to the JobPostings schema, e.g. small changes to definitions, changes to how things like competences are represented and linked to JobPostings, and guidance, probably on the wiki, about using the JobPosting schema to mark up job adverts. Of course, whatever the Community Group suggests, it’s up to the steering group to decide on whether they are adopted into, and then it’s up to the search engines and other data consumers as to whether they make any use of the mark up.

The thinking behind the having a wider remit than the currently envisaged work is to avoid setting up a whole series of new groups every time we have a new idea [lesson learnt from moving from LRMI to Course description to educational and occupational credentials].

Call for participation

If you’ve read this far you must be somewhat interested  in this area of work, so why not join the TMS Community Group to show your support for the JDX and more broadly the need and importance for improved workforce signaling in the talent marketplace? You can join via pink/tan button on the Talent Signal CG web page. You will need to have a W3C account and to be signed in order to join (see the top right of the page to sign-in or join). The only restriction on joining is that you must give some assurances about the openness of the IPR of any contributions that you make. The outcomes of this work will feed into a specification that anyone can use, so there must be no hidden IPR restrictions in there.

The group  is open to all stakeholders so please feel free to share this information with your colleagues and network.


I’m being paid by the US Chambers of Commerce Federation to carry out this work. Thank you US CCF!

The post Talent marketplace signalling and JobPostings appeared first on Sharing and learning.

How to Procure Open Source⤴

from @ education

As part of my work as a Board member of the Apereo Foundation, we've been working on new content to more clearly make the case for adopting open source, particularly in education. Alongside that we've been working on developing open source health measures that will … Continue reading How to Procure Open Source

Twitter, cpd, actor-network theory and flânerie⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

“BEST. PD. EVER!” Some teachers make bold claims for the way that Twitter supports their professional development, yet research into this area is rather limited. This study sought to gain a better understanding of the practices involved and the part that Twitter plays. It uses a sociomaterial sensibility informed by actor-network theory (ANT) to unravel the complex webs of relations which form, break apart and reform when knowledge practices are enacted in the mediated arena of Twitter.
To explore this rich but messy environment, I evoke the spirit of the Parisian flâneur to develop an ethnographic approach I refer to as ‘flânography.’

from: Exploring teachers’ professional development with Twitter: A sociomaterial analysis – Sheffield Hallam University Research Archive

Ian Guest’s phd should make for fascinating reading. I’ve followed along on his blog as best I could. The idea of twitter as CPD is a popular one that needs the sort of examination that Ian carried out.

We have interviewed Ian on Radio Edutalk about his phd back in 2016 and I am looking forward to talking to him again soon. He also published audio of some of his research interviews on Edutalk: CPDin140.

Visualisers – or is there a better way?⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Over the last few weeks, in the twittersphere, I have come across three posts all about visualisers and asking whether there are good ones out there that won’t break the bank.  Sure there are great visualisers out there, but there is a far cheaper and better way to get the same effect: use a phone or tablet.

I will be recommending a lot of things in this post, but I will point out that I am not amazon affiliated or in any way getting profits from any of the products that I note below – they are for reference only, and may not be the best ones available.

The three posts…

What is a visualiser?

Working in much the same way as an Over-Head Projector used to, a visualiser projects an image of what you are displaying onto a board.  For example, if you place an example of a child’s jotter work under the visualiser, it will display it on the smart board for the class to see and as reference.

They truly are fantastic for plenaries, feedback and for showing examples of good work – even just for talking through a worksheet or drawing attention to a passage of text.

Why don’t I use visualisers?

Visualisers are clunky pieces of kit and really serve only one purpose.  They are also expensive.  The cheapest I found was £40, but you’d most likely want a good one which can be closer to £100.  There are better ways out there to achieve the same aims – at often better quality – with devices that you already have in your class and less expensive resources.

So what’s the alternative?

As I have noted in response to each tweet that I’ve seen this week regarding visualisers; my favourite solution is using your trusty mobile phone or tablet.  In past posts, I have recommended getting a VGA adapter for your device that will connect it to the SMART board.  In my case, I use iPhone; so a search for VGA to iPhone X (or VGA to lightning, as the port is named) gets me the results I’m looking for.  Most modern androids use a type C port, but typing in VGA to *phone make and model* will give you the results that you’re after.

Whilst these can be fairly expensive (around £20), they are very versatile.  I love using them to also read kindle books with the children – they can read along on the board without having to purchase multiple copies of a book.

For visualising though, simply use your phone/tablet’s camera when it is connected to the board, and your children will see what your device can see – an instant visualiser!

Go hands free…

Visualisers are good, as they hold a fixed position and you don’t need to hold a camera pointing at the work to show it.  Therefore, there is no camera shake and you get a very clear picture.  This can be achieved easily for a phone or tablet by purchasing a desk clamp stand for your device.  You can get a good one for less than £10 such as this one.

This very literally turns your device into a visualiser.

Go wireless…

I do actually love using an adapter as I don’t have to rely on a good connection or network.  You can, however, go wireless.  Many schools are getting Wi-Fi and even Apple TV.  There are also many good screen mirroring apps out there such as AirServer, as recommended by the below twitter user, and Reflector.  If you fancy going wireless then these are great things to look into.  Benefits of this include being more portable and being able to cast work from anywhere in the room to your board.

Again though, I do prefer a wired connection with a desk clamp stand when I am casting work, and would recommend this above getting a visualiser every single time!

I do hope that you all have a great week and hopefully this has given you some ideas about how to use your devices and/or real visualisers in your own practice.


Making time⤴


However busy I am, I try to make time for two daily rituals – one the DS106 Daily Create, a daily challenge open to anyone to participate as they wish, the other a Daily Doodle prompt I’ve been following for some time with my CLMooc friends. I glory in all my tools – my pens, my crayons, my paper, my inks. Old friends and new friends, as Terry says. Micron pens to outline (sometimes with a pencil first). Crayons for familiarity – I have so many sets of crayons. Here I try to take a picture, but my helper wants in on the act:

Quite right, why take pictures of Sharpies, when I can stroke a cat.

New CPD Standards for College Lecturers and Digital Skills Scotland⤴

from @ ...........Experimental Blog

There are new CPD standards for all those teaching in Scotland's Colleges . The Standards are designed to support and encourage lecturers to develop a clear understanding of their role and how they contribute to wider student outcomes. Underpinning the Standards is the expectation that individual lecturers are expected to commit to and be responsible for their own continuous professional development, ensuring the quality of the student experience. The full standard can be downloaded from the CDN Website. They do cover a lot more than digital skills !

But with a specific focus on digital skills - staff need to :
  • Understand how to embed a range of digital technologies to enhance learning and teaching and assessment. 
  • Understand and evaluates critically the use of technologies in optimising students’ ability to learn and their relevance to the world of work.
  • Understands how to keep up to date with emerging industry / subject technological advances. 
  • Understand how to embed appropriate digital technology. 
  • Understand the safe use of technology and the necessity for cyber resilience and security. 
  • Understand the nature and agenda for sustainability, and works in partnership to ensure the most effective, efficient and inclusive development and use of learning resources. 
  • Adopt creative approaches to the embedding of appropriate digital technologies for effective planning, delivery and assessment of learning. 
  • Promote and supports the safe and respectful use of digital technologies and the impact on others. 
  • Engage with, and evaluates critically, the use of technologies and their impact on meeting student needs, and supporting learning, teaching and assessment 
  • Promote and facilitates wider access to learning and teaching and assessment through the effective application of digital technologies. 
  • Facilitate and engages in the use of local and global digital learning communities to enhance opportunities for collaborative practice. 

These competencies sit well alongside Citylearning4.0 and a range of support from Jisc and external agencies too.

From a distance I did try very hard to get some more focus on open learning and the sharing of learning materials using CC and or other relevant open licences. And to pick up too on strands emerging from Europe and USA on digitals skills frameworks for teachers.

As it stands the new standard is not quite aligned to what is happening in School space or what is happening in England. - but it is a good start !

The list above will be useful to anyone developing a digital service or preparing training for an FE audience in Scotland.  A baseline for aspirations to start !

To follow a mapping that ties these in to Jisc Digital Capabilities work , Microsoft Teaching Communities , Google Educator Certfication , Apple Educator Certification -
unless you beat me to it !