Strategies, policy, consultation, devolution and the d(digital) factor 

Well it’s been quite a couple of weeks for education strategy and consultation, so yesterday’s ALT Scotland Policy board  was very timely in bringing a group of people from across the Scottish Education Sector together.

Like everyone else in HE, I’ve been watching and following the response the UK Government’s Green Paper (many thanks WonkHE for your excellent coverage). Like everyone else in Scottish HE, I’ve been wondering what impact this will have on us.  Education is a devolved issue so Scotland doesn’t have to follow the path of Evel though it will undoubtedly have an impact as this post from David Kernohan has highlighted.

In FE, we in Scotland are now starting to emerge from our great regionalisation just as our colleagues south of the border embark on theirs. In schools we have our Curriculum for Excellence which as well as giving many people headaches as it was developed, gave many of us a sense of relief from all that Michael Gove madness a couple of years ago.

In terms of open education due to the funding of the #ukoer programme Scottish institutions couldn’t be lead partners, so developing open-ness has been a much more grass roots movement here.  We are seeing more open policies being developed and approved, but there is still a way to go. Open-ness isn’t that high on many institutional strategic objectives, but there are many areas particularly around fully online delivery and widening participation where open education practice (not just policy) could have significant benefits that fit extremely well with strategic priorities.

Getting updates on current priorities from colleagues from SFC, QAA Scotland, Jisc, SQA, CDN, Open Scotland was invaluable.  It seems to me we seem to have less opportunity to do that now. I suspect that’s partly due to the emergence of the new Jisc, which doesn’t have the same capacity for community engagement as in years past. Having an active ALT Scotland group is filling some of that gap with meetings like yesterday’s.

ALTs voice, as an independent membership organisation has probably never been so important.  Responding to consultations such as the recent BIS inquiries into assessing quality in Higher Education and the Digital Economy has led to invitations to speak at Westminster Select Committee  meetings.

Something that came through yesterday is that we (and I’m speaking with my ALT Trustee hat on just now) need to try and find more ways to increase our involvement with the Scottish Government around education developments.

One way are doing this, and this was a substantial part of the meeting yesterday is to submit a formal response to the consultation process around the Scottish Governments Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for schools.

Digital also seemed to be a key unifying theme from the updates in the meeting. However the meaning of digital is contentious and, for me, quite troublesome . It is used in widely varying contexts.  From content to infrastructure to literacy, the ‘d’ factor is all pervasive just now.

I’m not going to  get into the debate about is “digital learning and teaching” different from “learning and teaching, instead I’ll focus in this post. However having attended one of the consultation events for the strategy last week and from the discussion yesterday, I am heartened that this consultation process is taking into account culture as well as technology.  It is perhaps more a teaching strategy, as for it to be realised, there will need to be recognition of the importance of CPD for staff. Digital literacy underpins the success of any digital initiative.

One thing that did come through yesterday was that there may be an opportunity to revisit some of the work done by the Scottish Government around the learner journey to try and connect all our education sectors.  The digital learning and teaching strategy will have to ensure that it fits with other key school priorities priorities such as the National Improvement Framework (NIF) but it provides a great opportunity for input from other sectors.

If we are extending digital assessment in the school and college sector from traditional paper based exams to more evidenced based digital artefacts, then we need to be doing even more of the same in HE.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could start introducing the concept of feedback/feedforward in school? That might help not just our NSS scores, but understanding and engagement of the process. Let’s get start developing open educational practice in schools for learners and staff, encourage a maker and sharer culture supported by creative commons and open badges.  The Digital Learning and Teaching strategy could provide an opportunity to start connecting some of the dots and strengthen the case for a digital infrastructure that supports extended and enhanced cross sectoral sharing of practice.

You can contribute to ALTs response to the consultation here.

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