Friday, December 08, 2006

Survey on e-learning

The Internet Safety qualification is actually part of a larger project about "e-only" qualifications - that is, qualifications provided in digital format ("paperless qualifications"). An important part of that project is research into practitioners' experience, training and attitudes towards e-learning and e-assessment.

To that end, I've created an online survey. Although it's primarily designed for teachers and lecturers, it's appropriate to anyone with an interest in e-learning/e-assessment. It should only take around 10 minutes to complete. The results will help to determine the way that SQA develops qualifications in the future.

I would appreciate if you would take the time to complete the survey. Please click here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Internet Safety programme launch

I attended the launch of Glasgow Community & Safety Services Internet Safety programme this morning. The event was held at Lourdes Secondary School in Glasgow. The programme is designed to warn young people (Primary and early Secondary pupils) of the dangers in using the Internet. A resource pack is available to all Glasgow schools. More herePosted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Safety awareness wiki

This looks like an interesting resource for teachers and parents.

Friday, November 17, 2006


We held an online meeting yesterday morning using Skype. Only three people attended (me, Ted and Alan Paterson) but it was an interesting exercise in conducting an online meeting.

Technically, it went very well - which shows how mature this technology (VOIP) is becoming. There is an art to online meetings that humankind in general (and me in particular) has not mastered so my chairing skills left something to be desired. But the meeting went well.

I had hoped to record the meeting and share the resulting MP3 but one of the microphones was not picked-up properly so the recording was partly inaudible and not worth sharing. Oh well, you live and learn. But I would definitely use this technology again.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Online meeting is scheduled

We're planning on having an online meeting on Thursday to give teachers from pilot centres the opportunity to talk to the development team.

To join the discussion, you'll need to have Skype installed on your computer (any version will work) and a headset (microphone and headphones) if you want to participate in the discussion.

Ted and Lisa will be there to answer any questions you may have about teaching materials or assessment - and I will be happy to answer questions about any other aspect of the project.

I'll need to know your Skype ID before the meeting so drop me an e-mail if you want an invitation.

I plan to record the meeting and I'll share the podcast once the meeting is finished.

So, I hope to see you on Thursday!

Wiki is available

The Internet Safety qualification is actually part of SQA's "e-only" project - which is an experiment to trial various online technologies. One of those technologies is a wiki.

We have put all of the teaching and learning materials into a wiki so that teachers and lecturers can change the materials. So, if you've discovered errors or omissions then this is your chance to fix them.

Wikis sound a great idea - but practical issues (such as time constraints on busy teachers and lecturers) might be a problem. So it will be interesting to see if this wiki is used.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Steering Group meeting

The Steering Group for this project met again this morning. It was another good meeting.

In addition to the usual business (minutes of last meeting, project update etc.), Lisa demonstrated the e-learning material and the online assessment, and Nick demonstrated Glow, the new network for Scottish pupils and teachers.

Rob Hay of Strathclyde Police also outlined an exciting development, which may involve new recruits to the Strathclyde force undertaking the qualification. More details will follow.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Survey for pilot centres

I created a short survey today for pilot centres, to find out exactly who is doing the unit and also find out something about the backgrounds of the teachers who are delivering this unit. The survey is open to pilot centres (only).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Second launch event

The second launch event was held today. It was much smaller than Friday's event - five people attended. It was a relief to teach a small class! Today, also went well - and the technology behaved itself again.

The development team were delighted at the events - but relieved that they were over.

Now that the launch events are over, we appreciate that we have to get down to the hard work of supporting centres on a day-to-day basis. But, for the next day or two, we plan to bask in the glory of a successful development and launch!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Launch event today

The first launch event took place today. It was held at Cardonald College. There was an excellent turn-out with 16 centres represented. The event went very well - which was a relief since we were demonstrating a wide range of new technology.

I was the MC for the day, Ted demonstrated the teaching and learning material, and Lisa demonstrated the assessments. The event was part-launch and part-training since everyone got the chance to get their hands-on the technologies involved in the pilot (such as Moodle) Every person was also supplied with a CD-ROM that contained all of the teaching and learning material, and all of the assessments.

The feedback was positive and I think that the day went well.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Launch events

We've now organised the launch events for Internet Safety. Two events will take place - both at Cardonald College - on Friday, 1 September and Monday, 4 September. The events will not only launch the new awards but also provide some hands-on training on some of the new technologies involved in the pilot (such as Moodle and CP3). The events are only open to registered pilot centres. Contact Derek for more information.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Steering Group meeting

The Steering Group met this afternoon at Jury's Inn in Glasgow. We're getting to an important stage in the project so we had lots to discuss - such as the teaching and learning materials, the online assessment, and the forthcoming launch events. It was a good, positive meeting. We plan on having another meeting next month to review progress with the pilot.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Unit is available to any centre

Following the recent publication of the unit on the SQA website, the unit has today been added to the "auto-approved" list of qualifications - which means that any SQA centre is automatically approved to offer it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Microsoft/CEOP meeting

I went along to a meeting this morning in the Ofcom building in Glasgow, which was organised jointly by Microsoft and CEOP. There were representatives of various organisations involved in Internet safety including LT Scotland, Children First and East Ayrshire Council in addition to SQA, Microsoft, CEOP and Ofcom.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring everyone up-to-date with developments so that we each had an idea of what is going on. It was a good meeting. Attendees were very interested in the Internet Safety qualification. We agreed to meet again in November.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Internet Safety unit specification is now available

The definitive version of the unit specification (which includes the unit reference number) was uploaded to the SQA website today. It's available for download here [PDF].

Launch event

We're in the process of organising the launch event for the new Internet Safety qualification. There will be two events - held on Friday, 1 September and Monday, 4 September, both at Cardonald College.

The events will be a combined launch and training event - with attendees having the opportunity to get their hands on some of the technologies that will be involved in the pilot (such as Moodle).

The events are for pilot centres (only)... of which there are 41. Contact Derek for more information about these events.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Children and the Net" article

Yesterday's Independent on Sunday carried a front page story on Internet safety - followed by a major investigation inside, covering four pages.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Today's Metro has an interesting article on an ID system designed to protect the identities of young people. It's called a NetIDme.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Update on developments

I thought that this might be a good time to post an update on developments.

So far, 38 centres have volunteered to pilot the qualification from August - which is more than I would like for the pilot but we're hoping to accommodate everyone who wants to be involved. The volunteers range from secondary schools to training centres so it looks like a good cross-section of the education community will be involved.

Some time ago, we produced the paper assessments for the unit and we're currently busy developing the teaching and learning material. A number of practicising teachers and lecturers are working on this material. I'm hoping that it will be finished by the end of this month.

I'm talking to a number of online assessment companies to find one to host the questions. Once one is selected, we have to get the questions onto the system so that they are available to schools and colleges for the start of term.

We're also planning the launch event, which will provide pilot centres with an opportunity to test the teaching and learning material, and try to online assessments.

And, finally, we are about to arrange another Steering Group meeting so that the partner organisations know what's going on.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ofcom report on Online Protection

Ofcom has recently produced a report [PDF] on how best to protect consumers from potential abuses on the Internet. The key findings make interesting reading.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Internet safety FAQ

The first version of the FAQ for this project is now available. It answers the most commonly asked questions about the project in general and the qualification in particular. You can download it here - or here if the last link doesn't work.

This is the first version of the FAQ and it will grow over time so please provide feedback if there's anything you would like changed or added.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Good response to request for pilot centres

So far, 24 centres have come forward to volunteer to pilot the new Internet Safety qualification. There's a good mix of centres including schools, colleges and training centres. The qualification looks particularly popular with S1/S2 pupils since several of the pilot centres indicated their intention to offer it to this group.

The pilot centres will be provided with digital teaching and learning material, and access to an online assessment bank. This qualification is part of SQA's E-only initiative so paper materials will not be provided. However, the unit itself will be available to any centre from August.

We haven't yet made a final decision about pilot centres and there's still time to volunteer. Contact Derek McFarlane if you're interested.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pilot centres wanted

I am in the process of writing to centres to ask for volunteers to pilot the Internet Safety unit. But you don't need to wait for the letter to arrive since you can contact Derek McFarlane if you want to be involved in delivering this unit.

A key aspect of this project relates to innovative ways to teach and assess the unit and I'm looking for a number of pilot centres to test the learning and assessment material, which will be supplied in digital format (consisting of HTML teaching materials and an item bank of questions for formative and summative use).

At this stage, I'm only looking for expressions of interest - not commitments (on either side). So please contact Derek by e-mail if you're interested in becoming involved in the pilot.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New type of malware

The BBC reports on a new type of malware called ransomware.


Sunday's Times newspaper carried a story on cyber-bullying (which features in the Internet Safety unit!).

Monday, June 05, 2006

Working weekend

I'm just back from a working weekend in Stirling where a team of writers produced the assessments for the Internet Safety unit.

The work was pretty intensive. From Friday evening to Monday afternoon, the team produced over 200 questions for Outcomes 1-3 and developed an assessment for Outcome 4. I was particularly pleased at the multiple choice questions. Not only were a very large number produced - but they were high quality questions too.

These questions will be added to an item bank which will be used as the basis of an online assessment system for this Unit.

Final version of unit specification

Thanks to everyone who responded to my invitation to comment on the draft unit spec.

I've now made some changes to the unit and I think that it's much improved. Here is the final version. Note that it is not yet numbered and still has the "draft" watermark. You can locate the changes by comparing this version to the previous version.

I'll now arrange for the unit to be published and added to SQA's list of qualifications. It will be available to (all) centres from August. But I'll be looking for centres to pilot the "e-only" approach to the unit shortly.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Draft unit specification is now available for comment

A draft unit specification [DOC] is now available for comment. The writing team would appreciate comments via this blog.

First meeting of the Steering Group

The Steering Group for this project met for the first time yesterday. Representatives of the BBC, Learning & Teaching Scotland, Scottish libraries, Strathclyde Police attended along with school and college representatives. It was a very positive meeting with support for developments to date and an endorsement of the planned future action.

There was a strong consensus around the general approach that should be embodied within the qualification and associated materials -- education not prohibition. It was noted that many centres often banned access to many Internet resources but it was felt that this simply transferred the problem to outside of school - where pupils often had unrestricted access at home or Internet cafes or (increasingly) on mobile devices. So the qualification should seek to educate users to use the Internet responsibly rather than attempting to control access.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Survey results are now available

Over 500 people completed the online survey - which means that we can have a lot of confidence in the results. The main points of interest are:
  • 95% of respondents were "somewhat" or "very" concerned about Internet safety
  • 80% of centres had an Internet safety policy but...
  • one third of those centres "sometimes" or "never" enforced it
  • 40% of centres provided some form of Internet safety training but...
  • this was "informal" in 80% of those centres.
The main areas of concern among respondents were:
  • downloading inappropriate material
  • accessing inappropriate material
  • making inappropriate friendships.
I was very pleased that over 90% of respondents were interested in a qualification in this area - and most respondents wanted it at SCQF level 4 for lower school (S1-S3) pupils.

The proposed qualification will be revised to reflect these findings. A draft version of the unit specification will be available later this week.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Social networks

Techweb reports that almost half of Internet users visited a social networking site last month. Websites such as MySpace and Faceparty have become incredibly popular among young adults. Some concerns have been expressed about the use of such sites although social networking looks like it will continue to grow.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Teachers lack knowledge on internet safety, report reveals

Teachers feel uneducated about protecting children from inappropriate websites and do not know who they should to turn to for advice, new research reveals. More.

I was surprised at the report's claim that "the largest group of viewers of internet pornography was children aged 12 to 17".

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Online resources

One of the more interesting parts of this project is the opportunity to review online resources relating to Internet safety. I've come across a large number of websites, some based in the UK and some international.

The BBC has a large number of online resources such as ChatGuide, organisations such as BT and Microsoft sponsor more technical information such as Get Safe Online, some sites provide specific advice to particular users such as Yahoo's Parents' Guide, and the Children's Charity provides a useful Internet safety FAQ.

International sites of note include the Australian government's NetAlert service and the Oklahoma Police Department's comprehensive guide to identity theft.

Let me know (by posting a comment here or sending me an e-mail) if you know of any other useful online resources.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Large response to survey

This is the second week of the Internet safety survey and so far almost 500 people have completed the questionnaire. The interim results make interesting reading with 96% of respondents being "somewhat" or "very" worried about Internet safety. A particularly gratifying statistic for me was that 91% of people were interested in offering a qualification in this area.

The survey closes on Friday. I'll share the results once the survey is closed.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Steering Group is complete

I've spent the last couple of weeks assembling a Steering Group to guide this project and the membership is now complete. I'm delighted with the quality of the Group with representatives of schools and colleges, and individuals representing national organisations such as the BBC, British Telecom, Learning & Teaching Scotland, Microsoft, Scottish Libraries Information Council and Strathclyde Police. I am particularly pleased to have a representative of Children's Charities for Internet Safety on-board.

The first meeting of the Steering Group will take place in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Letter sent to all centres

A letter has been sent to all centres today. The letter explains what this project is about and also outlines the expected timescales. It was sent to all schools, colleges, libraries and some other SQA centres.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Internet safety survey is now ready

An important aspect of this project is to get feedback from practitioners. To that end, I've created a short online survey to gauge your attitude towards Internet safety and to find out more about the Internet facilites that your students can use.

The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete. A high response rate is important if the results are to be used to affect developments so I would appreciate if you would take a few minutes to complete the survey. It can be found here. Thanks in anticipation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Online survey

In addition to the expert guidance that the Steering Group can provide, I am working on an online survey to gauge the views of teachers, lecturers, librarians and others with an interest in this topic. The survey will be available soon.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Steering Group taking shape

The Internet Safety project is a collaborative endevour and I'm currently working on assembling a Steering Group to guide developments. Already, Learning & Teaching Scotland, Microsoft and the Scottish Library Information Council have agreed to serve on the Group and I have a representative from a Scottish school too. I'm hoping to add representatives from the media and Internet Service Providers among others. I'll post a list of members once the full group has been assembled.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Welcome to the Internet safety blog

Welcome to the Internet safety blog. This blog will record the development of a new qualification relating to the safe use of the Internet.

Safety concerns have frequently been in the news so SQA has decided to develop a new qualification in this area. It's hoped that the qualification will be of interest to a large number of people - including school pupils, parents, librarians, adults working with children and other Internet users who want to know how to use the Internet safely and legally (which includes a growing number of silver surfers).

We're aiming to produce more than a qualification. In partnership with other organisations, we hope to develop a complete curricular package to support learners - including online assessment material. Given the intended audience for this new award, it seems natural that this material should be digital so the entire qualification and all of the support material will be available online. In fact, Internet Safety will be SQA's first entirely digital qualification.

Thanks for taking the time to read this web log. I hope that you find it worthwhile and decide to visit from time to time. If you want to return, please bookmark this page.