BTEC should no longer be a dumping ground course
2018 March 2 Friday 15:17
Recently a bus advertisement was noticed, something with the words to the effect of "I choose BTEC to go to uni[versity]". Then, coincidentally, there has been an article published by Royal Society of Chemistry about BTEC level 3 qualifications being an alternative to GCE A levels. Laudable, but how many schools are advising students to change onto BTEC because of a risk of failure at A-level?
This used to be a sensible option, but as far as the latest 2016 specifications (e.g. level 3 applied science), this does not seem so valid any more. Now there are mandatory "external assessments" (a.k.a. exams) which now reduces options to students that may not perform well in exams but are otherwise good students. The latest BTECs are more demanding than the 2010 specifications, but do schools and teachers care more about performance measures because that is the government agenda to assess schools?
Then there's the questionable target of 50 % university enrollment rate, together with a projected invoice (sorry, degree certificate) now valued at £ 50k. With the proliferation of unconditional university offers to complete the commercialisation of education, we could see too many students struggle with year 1 of their university course, drop out and have debts to pay without the "high skill, high wage" job that university was supposed to make available. Another example of unintended consequences.
Open clip art
2018 March 4 Sunday 21:09
"Chemix draws using Flash."; read this statement and immediately rejected the recommendation in a (proprietary) ACS blog post to use this graphics tool. It reminded of a far better tool, Inkscape. So, what are the advantages?
- Is free(dom) software, free to install and use.
- Able to make scalable vector graphics images, an excellent file format the allows images to be re-scaled without loss of resolution. Again, a free(dom) web standard. See W3C
- The developers went on to organise an Open Clip Art Library (OCLA) of free(dom) images. Further information about the power of licences is at GNU
An example of a free(dom) contribution to OCAL Using resources such as OCAL, together with software such as the 'Draw' component of LibreOffice (or OpenOffice), multiple images (in svg format) can be imported into a new image for presentation. So, in this example a clamp stand and a burette could be combined, individual images re-scaled and then used for a lesson presentation. Students could do similar to build online documents with Google Docs.
Sharing is caring
2018 March 17 Saturday 18:05
In an earlier blog post, the issue of formats of electronic documents was introduced. OK, low priority perhaps, but it would be nice for an exam board to utilise non-proprietary file formats, with proper use of styles to arrange and ease navigation. It helps to find things. As an example, guidance to organise provision of laboratory practicals is now available for GCSE & GCE A(S) Chemistry courses (these are word processor documents). Let us hope that schools awaken to the benefits of changing to freedom software.
Data data everywhere, yet not a bit to byte
2018 March 23 Friday 19:45
The "scandal" about data collation by and for Facebook is mildly amusing; it is the essence of the commercial internet business model. However it does remind of a similar potential scandal in the making; intrusion into children's privacy via the tool of choice, Google Education (and Chromebook). Why would Google spend so much time and resources to try and enter the multi-million educational technology market? New future customers of course. For background reading, try Spying on kids(PDF document), although to be fair the EU GDPR may be an improvement. Again, further reading such as this blog post about UK guidance on the matter, could be a good start.
If you want to:
- Encourage children to develop new IT skills
- Learn to use social media without commercial (i.e. capitalist) priorities
- Avoid the need to provide personal data