Posts Tagged ‘networking’

Computing Skills Crisis

Britain faces ‘growing shortage’ of digital skills – The Telegraph, July 2014

IT skills shortage still tops the technology agenda – Computer Weekly, November 2013

TIGA Warns Of UK Skills Shortage – Gamasutra, August 2010

Anyone involved in the computing or IT industry has been aware of this type of story that has been headlining the popular press in recent years, and although measures have been put in place to help close the skills gap, a serious omission is likely to compound the problem.

Where are the skilled educators to deliver courses to fill the IT skills gap?

Qualifications authorities can develop new courses designed to offer skills needed for the next generation of IT professionals, but who is going to teach the courses? Teaching is an aging profession. For many it has been a ‘job for life’, meaning that there is an aging population of lecturers, and there is a serious lack of newcomers to the profession. While the long holidays may have been an attractant in the past, any current trained software developer or network engineer is unlikely to be attracted by the salary of the average college or university lecturer.

£75,000 is not an unusual salary for a skilled software developer whose skills are in demand. That is almost twice the salary of a college or university lecturer, so who could blame the IT professional for remaining in their current job?

At a recent meeting of college computing managers the topic of retiring staff and the inability to recruit new staff was raised. Several college managers voiced their concerns that core skills would be lost and could not be replaced. Other managers complained of the lack of time and funding to train their current staff, with colleges already strapped for cash and under increasing budget constraints.

Another story from the education sector has staff complaining to college management about the lack of development time and training, but being told they weren’t a ‘special case’. Their argument is that it is unfair that lecturers in other disciplines, that are not subject to the rapid change of technology, do not suffer the same pressures as those in computing.

Indeed, what has changed in mathematics in the past 20 years, compared to computing? In 20 years we’ve seen the Internet, the Web, apps, mobile, C#, Python, virtual reality, cyber security, big data and countless new technologies that directly impact on education. How can anyone keep up with this rate of change and be adequately prepared to teach it?

It’s about time that someone with serious political clout addressed the issue lest Scotland become a digital backwater instead of the powerhouse it is hoped to become.



Education for Free?

May 20, 2011 1 comment

CC Flickr, matthileo

I attended JISC’s Open for Education conference today in Edinburgh. The event focussed on free and open source educational tools, which is certainly very pertinent with the recent and forthcoming cuts in education budgets.

There was a variety of presentations and keynotes covering a range of topics including Google Apps, Mahara E-portfolios and Moodle.

Zoe Ross’s opening keynote on Google Apps offered a superb live demonstration of combining Google Forms, spreadsheets and Google Maps. The audience was invited to send data via their mobile phones and other devices to a Google Form which collated the data in a spreadsheet, and the some of the data was then visualised in a Google Map. Outstanding, and a great start to the day.

After the keynote I presented two back-to-back sessions. The  first session was a Blender workshop where we built a simple 3D car and made it drivable with Blender’s logic bricks and game engine. I think the group were quite excited by how easy it was to create interactive objects, and several delegates asked me about accessing resources to take their learning further.

My second session before lunch was about using Facebook as an alternative to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It’s a presentation I’ve done before, but this time there seemed to be more people open to the idea of social networking tools in colleges, and several people asked to speak to me about it after the conference. I think our usage of Facebook at Carnegie College has been successful this past year, with most of our students participating in discussion, peer support and other online activities on the social network.

After lunch Miles Berry of Roehampton University offered a keynote which covered a huge amount of open source and free tools, many of which I’d never heard of, but am keen to investigate. Although I’ve dabbled in Linux and Open Source software in the past, I often found it difficult to install or use, but many of these systems seem to have matured in their stability and usability to the extent that they are now accessible to most users.

The afternoon session that I attended covered two different e-portfolio systems – Mahara and MyShowcase. Both systems are available as add-ins for the Moodle VLE, but have different functionality. Mahara is probably one of the best known open source e-portfolio systems around, and as my college are currently investigating it I was keen to learn more about it. It seems like a well-featured and reasonably usable system, but I have some reservations about the portability of the material that may be added to it. Although it offers an ‘export as website’ option I’d like to see this in action before deciding if it’s truly a system I’d invest time in. My Showcase was a smaller, probably simpler system, and was more about linking disparate materials together rather than providing a repository for them. MyShowcase was developed with funding from JISC and seemed like a nice way of collating material held in Cloud services.

Wrapping up the day was a final keynote from Professor Frank Rennie of Lews Castle College who continued on the them of utilising Open Educational Resources (OER’s). He proposed the idea of making more educational resources freely available to anyone, and cited examples such as MIT’s repository and the Open University’s free materials. In a time of austerity he suggested that reinventing the wheel in each educational establishment was a drain on resources and that greater sharing of learning materials would result in better cost savings for everyone involved. Indeed, he went on to suggest that the creation of course materials should start with locating free resources before investing time and money in creating bespoke materials.

It was an informative and interesting conference, and although I only managed to attend a few sessions myself I’ve come away with several ideas and areas to investigate further.

Session feedback

Thanks for all the tweets about my workshop and seminar!

Harnessing Social Networks – Mari Smith at Carnegie College

August 27, 2009 2 comments
Colin Maxwell with Mari Smith at Carnegie College, August 2009

Colin Maxwell with Mari Smith at Carnegie College, August 2009

Mari Smith, the ‘Pied Piper of Facebook’ dropped in to Carnegie College today to give students and staff advice on harnessing the power of online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Describing herself as a Scottish-Canadian-American Relationship Marketing Specialist, Mari was quick to spot the potential of online social networks for business use, and now offers social media consulting services all around the world.

At Carnegie College Mari offered students advice on how to use social networking to help them find employment and to widen their social network. She also offered advice on how to keep certain online information private and how to manage online contacts more effectively.

Mari is on a whilstle-stop tour of Scotland and is also attending the Edinburgh Coffee Morning on Friday 28th August before jetting home to California.