16 June 2009

Digital Britain

To the RSA to see Stephen Carter launch the Digital Britain final report. This is well covered in today's press and contains few surprises other than the fixed line levy. However, I was impressed by how 'joined-up' the thinking seems to be.

In the skills and education section there a coherent references to to the relationship between Jim Rose's proposals for ICT, Estelle Morris's review on digital life skills (which proposes and adult entitlement to an introduction to digital skills), work by the SSCs e-Skills and Skillset on creating skills for the digital economy and on the importance of media literacy as well as a host of smaller initiatives and pilot programmes that might find new and appropriate practice and promote this.

There is also a recognition that investment in hardware and software for the education sector has not yet produced a teaching workforce capable of harnessing the investment - though there are no new proposals as to how this could be achieved...

So whilst impressed by the coherence of the report I am reminded once again of how difficult (and slow) policy implementation really is. When leading large enterprises in the private sector it was possible to plan and deploy large scale innovation in a year or less. In the private education sector it has been possible to engineer transformations across groups of schools in less than two years. But in the public sector and on a national basis it's hard even to set the agenda.

It's a pity that Stephen Carter won't be around to maintain focus on delivering the Digital Britain vision.

7 June 2009

Dog ate my USB...

From Eszter Hargittai's Blog, a post about digital junk!
"At IHE, Scott Jaschik has a piece about a site that sells corrupted files to students as a way to get a few extra hours or days to finish an assignment. The idea is that the student submits a corrupted file, it takes the instructor a while to figure this out, in the meantime the student finishes the assignment."
I don't work in HE but in the school sector I've not had an instance of this and would be interested to hear colleagues' experience. But apparently unreadable files have created problems consistently for some colleagues over the past few years - the issue is file formats.

Learners sometimes use applications that are not available in school (e.g. MS Works) and save them in proprietary file formats that can't be read in school. Or they have a later version of MS Word than the school and don't save in a backward compatible format. Most teachers don't know about readers and translators (nor should they need to) and many of these files end up in my inbox to sort out.

Perhaps the various XML file formats might sort this out in the future but with the lag in software acquisition by both institutions and individuals I'm not holding my breath. As I sit here editing this piece in the 'Blogger' editor my thoughts turn to Learning Platforms to provide a solution. An LP worthy of that title will provide an editor with more formatting capability than most teachers would wish to see in a piece of written work and the option to 'lock' a final delivery edit at a defined time. Learners can use the editor to create their work or paste in the text from their word processor of choice.

If work is to be delivered digitally surely standardising around the server platform must offer the best chance of consistency? How many 'Becta Approved' learning platforms have this facility?