Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Google Launches Free Tool To Let You Run Your Own Online Courses | Edudemic #yam

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Sensing the excitement from online education tools like edX, Google has just unveiled a (very beta) version of its own course building software. If you’ve ever wanted to run your own online courses, this might be worth your time.

Google’s new Course Builder software comes on the heels of a massively popular online Google class ‘Power Searching With Google‘ hosted by Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig.

Click here to get started with Google’s new Course Builder

Why They Did It

Norvig shared a bit more information about the impetus for creating the online course and the power searching course, saying it “was a strong success and also generated some technology that we thought would be useful to share with the world,” says Norvig. “We feel that by sharing the code that we’ve generated, we can impact more people in the education space. There is a lot of experimentation going on in the industry at this point, and we felt that contributing an open source project would be a beneficial starting point that could help everyone.”

It’s interesting that Google is trying to do something completely new rather than help build edX or an already established tool. That being said, the more the merrier as we all benefit when the mega-tech-giants like Google get involved.

Google+ Hangouts Coming Soon

Join Peter Norvig and special guests for two Hangouts on Air. Peter will answer your questions about MOOC design and the technical aspects of using Course Builder. Click here for details.

  • 19 Sept 10:00am – 10:45am PDT (5:00pm UTC)
  • 26 Sept 10:00am – 10:45am PDT (5:00pm UTC)

The Details From Google

From Peter Norvig, Director of Research

In July, Research at Google ran a large open online course, Power Searching with Google, taught by search expert, Dan Russell. The course was successful, with 155,000 registered students. Through this experiment, we learned that Google technologies can help bring education to a global audience. So we packaged up the technology we used to build Power Searching and are providing it as an open source project called Course Builder. We want to make this technology available so that others can experiment with online learning.

The Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education. It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction. We hope to continue development along these lines, but we wanted to make this limited code base available now, to see what early adopters will do with it, and to explore the future of learning technology. We will be hosting a community building event in the upcoming months to help more people get started using this software. edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms.

We are excited that Stanford University, Indiana University, UC San Diego,,, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), and a group of universities in Spain led by Universia, CRUE, and Banco Santander-Universidades are considering how this experimental technology might work for some of their online courses. Sebastian Thrun at Udacity welcomes this new option for instructors who would like to create an online class, while Daphne Koller at Coursera notes that the educational landscape is changing and it is exciting to see new avenues for teaching and learning emerge. We believe Google’s preliminary efforts here may be useful to those looking to scale online education through the cloud.

Along with releasing the experimental open source code, we’ve provided documentation and forums for anyone to learn how to develop and deploy an online course like Power Searching. In addition, over the next two weeks we will provide educators the opportunity to connect with the Google team working on the code via Google Hangouts. For access to the code, documentation, user forum, and information about the Hangouts, visit the Course Builder Open Source Project Page. To see what is possible with the Course Builder technology register for Google’s next version of Power Searching. We invite you to explore this brave new world of online learning with us.

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How to Opt Out of Facebook's Newest Attempts to Track Everything You Do, Even Offline #yam

How to Opt Out of Facebook's Newest Attempts to Track Everything You Do, Even OfflineFacebook has started working with a data mining service to pair together your email address and other information stored on Facebook with advertising products to see what (and if) you're clicking on ads. Privacy advocates aren't too fond of this, but thankfully you can keep it from happening.

We've known that Facebook is already tracking your every move online, but the data Facebook is using now isn't just about browser cookies. Facebook is pairing what you buy offline with what you see online.

The Data Facebook is Collecting (and What They're Using it For)

According to the Financial Times, Facebook is now working with the data collection company Datalogix. Facebook's reasoning is that they need a system to provide marketers with more concrete data, and Datalogix has data from about 70 million households drawn from loyalty cards and similar programs.

On its end, Facebook matches the email addresses in Datalogix's systems, and compares that to an email address on Facebook. This effectively makes it so they can track if you see an ad on Facebook and then purchase it in a store.

Your data is automatically included in the advertising studies without your consent, and because of that, privacy groups are concerned. Talking with CNET, Jeff Chester, executive director of The Center for Digital Democracy expresses his concern:

I believe the FTC should be investigating all this as part of its review under the consent decree... Ad exchanges allow them to take this data and apply it in real-time and sell it to the highest bidder including Facebook. They are using reams of additional data, including from online, to target Facebook users

For its part, Facebook released this statement to The Verge:

We are working with Datalogix to help advertisers understand how well their Facebook ads are working. We also do this through our partnerships with companies like Nielsen and comScore and through our own advertising tool. We know that people share a lot of information on Facebook, and we have taken great care to make sure that we measure the effectiveness of Facebook ads without compromising the commitments we have made on privacy. We don't sell people's personal information, and individual user data is not shared between Facebook, Datalogix or advertisers.

Regardless of whether your personal data is making it across the tubes, you might want to keep your offline activity separate from your online activity. Thankfully, it's easy to opt out of Datalogix's collection.

How to Opt-Out from the Datalogix Collection

To opt-out of everything (including the Facebook comparison data) Datalogix is collecting, head to their Privacy page, scroll down to the "Choice" heading, click the last "click here" link in the paragraph, and fill in your information. This will opt you out of any and all data collection done by Datalogix.

You can also easily to opt out of Datalogix's cookie-based tracking by clicking this link. Like any cookie based advertising, you will have to opt-out on every computer and browser you use.

Keep Your Online and Offline Data Separate

As we mentioned, the way this data collection works is that it compares your online data with offline shopping habits. So, the easiest solution to keep it from happening? Don't use the same phone number or email address on your Facebook account as you do when you sign up for loyalty or discount cards.

Stores rarely (if ever) follow up on making sure your loyalty card data is correct, so not using your real information isn't an issue. Otherwise, you can almost always use Jenny's number (867-5309) to get club discounts instead of handing over any personal information.

As for your online data, be sure to follow our guide to blocking Facebook cookies from distributing data to third party sites. Photo by Lisa Brewster.

Title image remixed from Joe Loong.

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The opportunities in mobile gaming are in {asynchronous social multiplayer games} « EVIL27 Games #yam

It should be clear to anyone that is interested in computer games that the mobile gaming market is growing very fast and, with smartphone penetration still accounting for only 40% in even major markets, that there is room for a lot more growth and for several years still.

It is also clear, to anyone who is actually making mobile games, that creating a game that people want to play en masse, let alone pay for (or in) en masse, is extremely hard. There are already over 130,000 games already submitted to the Apple App Store. Games like CSR Racing may be pulling in US$12million in their first month, but there is a very long tail in action here and the average revenue for a mobile game is reportedly less than US$4,000. Whilst it is still theoretically feasible to develop a mobile game for a few thousand dollars (working unpaid still has an opportunity cost even if there is not an actual monetary expenditure) most games from professional studios will have development budgets ranging from US50,000 to as much as US$1million.

The costs do not stop at simply making a game; far from it, next comes the marketing cost. Developers that base their plans/hopes/dreams around some form of free, natural virality are most likely going to fail. This is especially true of iOS games where (a) getting discovered requires being at the top of the charts, and (b) getting to and staying at the top of the charts costs lots of money. Putting that even more succinctly; getting visibility for your app WILL cost money….and no small amount of it.

Developers frequently drop a pot of money into user acquisition services such as Tapjoy (players are incentivised to download your game) or FreeAppADay (where players go to find normally paid-for apps being offered for free temporarily). These, and other methods, invariably cost from $10,000 and upwards on ‘day 1’. For a game to be profitable it needs to:

(1)    generate revenue per user (ARPU) at a rate that exceeds the average cost per user (ACPU)

(2)    reach a critical mass of users to ensure that the ‘net’ profit covers the initial development cost.

We must also consider that ‘net’ revenue is the gross sales revenue minus a whole host of direct costs starting with Apple (30%) but possibly also including any sales taxes, licensing costs, publisher’s cut, partner revenue share and ongoing infrastructure (e.g. server) costs.

It is also very rare for a game to be created then launched then left unattended. We are in a ‘games as a service’ era and games are usually hooked up to some form of user behaviour data collection and analytics tool nowadays, meaning that developers can see what is working and what is not. That means not just technical bug fixes but user interface improvements, tutorial re-working, revisiting game variable to achieve better balancing, editing narrative, creating new content and new features. A game that does at all well will invariably be ported to other platforms (Android, Windows mobile/8, Amazon Kindle) and/or be localised for different territories. That’s more cost folks.

So, making games, marketing them and maintaining them costs a lot of money. It is a crowded market and one where customer loyalty is low and where new/different games are foisted at players from all angles. If, therefore you want to make games for the mobile phone and tablet market, you had better be clear about what kind of games you are going to make if you want to have a chance of achieving breakeven let alone amassing huge profits. What are the options? I boil these down into four (broad but distinctly different) game types. These are:

[1] Casual games (that work on mobile devices) – ‘play by yourself on the move’

Conceivably this can includes games that involve more than one player –  e.g. two players, one finger each on same screen – but is invariably about single player games. If done right then the games are designed for the specific hardware capabilities (some might say ‘limitations’) of mobile devices but many are copies of web, PC or console games which are simply ported to mobile because it is feasible to do so not because it is sensible to do so. Cut The Rope, Plants vz Zombies and Fruit Ninja are exemplars of this category of game but for each of these there are a hundred (make that ten thousand) Tic Tac Toe clones and shoddy platformers. If you make this class of game then you need to be highly aware that the only benefit you have over console, PC and browser games is that your game can be played on the move. Design for that modality of use not for what is technically achievable.

[2] Casual social games – games that have a (vaguely) social layer where you ‘play by yourself….then see if your friends can beat your score’. Put another way; ‘games that are given another dimension because your friends are involved to some degree’.

These games are usually characterised by being a fundamentally single player experience on top of which is bolted a ‘challenge friends’ and/or leaderboard functionality. This is rapidly becoming the de facto design pattern for mobile games. I regard this as a somewhat lazy and possibly an commercially finite approach. It is often achieved with basic functionality provided by third party services such as OpenFeint or GameCentre that very much looks and feels ‘bolted on’ rather than having been crafted to enhance the player experience. This also leads to several frequent interruptions to the playing experience in the form of registration, login and pop-up leaderboard or achievement screens that look completely different to the game art and UI. If this is done well, e.g. where the playing experience is genuinely enhanced by the ability to try to perform better than people you know, then there is quantifiable end user value. This doesn’t disguise the fact, however, that the product is essentially still a single player game. These services also all exit to ultimately build a userbase for the service itself (e.g. to engage the user with advertising or cross-promotion interstitial ads) and that commercial goal conflicts with the game developer’s goal of engaging and retaining their player as long as is possible.

There is a secondary type of game in this class that closely resembles the Facebook/browser-based ‘social game’ type. Numerous social games have made their way to mobile devices (e.g. Farmville, CityVille and Ravenwood Fair) however the gameplay remains fundamentally of a single player nature which is augmented with the social mechanics of, for example, gifting, sharing and visiting and where such behaviour is rewarded with free virtual goods, in-game currency or other utility value. Despite seemingly interacting with friend’s in-game on a frequent basis, the nature of those interactions exist solely to bring about free user acquisition for the developer rather than to deliver intrinsic fun from playing. You interact with your friends because you have to not because it makes the game more fun in of itself.

[3] Synchronous multiplayer games – ‘play with or against other (probably quite hardcore) players in real time….on a mobile device’.

These kinds of games are rare and for two good reasons: firstly, they require a level of technical infrastructure and service provision that is typically very expensive to put in place and to maintain, and, secondly, because it is statistically unlikely that any one player has many friends that likes (an downs) the same game they do and whom are able to play that game at exactly the same time on a regular basis as they do. There is also the factor that in order to do so they may also require the same device/platform as you. ‘Android on a Samsung? Sorry you need an iPhone 4 or higher to play this game”.

Synchronous collaborative or competitive play is major aspect of the PC and console gaming experience where play sessions are much longer, happen at more regular (often coordinated) times and in environments conducive to that activity e.g. where you can strap on a headset and swear a lot. The very nature of synchronous gameplay tends to lend itself to more traditional, or ‘hardcore’, games genres which is not mass market (when expressed as a subset of the mobile phone gaming market overall). Mobile game play typically happens at unplanned opportunistic times, for very much shorter sessions spread throughout the day at a wide variety of locations many of which do not offer a reliable cellular or wifi network connectivity. I see synchronous (‘real time’) multiplayer gaming as a small niche that offers creatively interesting but commercial limited opportunities.

[4] Asynchronous multiplayer games – games where ‘the entirety of the fun is derived because you are playing with (or against) friends but which do not require an immediate data exchange’.

This is the class of mobile game that I think truly fit the ‘social mobile game’ definition. Whilst a real time (type 3) game is clearly about a genuine interaction with other (real) people and fundamental to gameplay, the very fact that this will be practical to only a very minor subset of mobile gamers make it, IMHO, by definition ‘antisocial’. Asynchronous mobile games, when done well, deliver playing experiences that are very much enhanced by the involvement of others but which do not fail to cater for the very real modality of mobile device usage (‘anytime, anywhere’).  Indeed, these games deliver an experience that is intrinsically fun because they are using a device that exists to enable communication and interaction between people who are not physically together in the same location and which does not require cumbersome peripherals or – at least not all of the time – power supply or data connectivity. Asynchronous games can be somewhat ‘lossy’ in that the exchange of data isn’t overly time-sensitive.

My archetypal example of this kind of game is Draw Something (OMGPOP). It’s success may have been over a fairly short time frame (approx. 6 months) but it reached 90million downloads and delivered outstanding revenues (reportedly $50-75million).

The title of this ’blog is about where I believe the (greatest) opportunities lie for mobile gaming. Given that commercial success is highly dependent upon successfully acquiring users and at a cost that is less than the revenue that they generate, how then do the different types of game (as defined above) contribute, or not, towards this goal?

Casual mobile games – no direct user acquisition benefit. These games lack both the instruments for users to spread the word to other users and the intrinsic motivation for them to do so. You are playing a single player game on your mobile device. Your progress in game and enjoyment of it are totally unrelated to whether or not your friends may be playing it. Score 0/10

Social casual mobile games – some benefit if the developer owns the user data, however that is rarely the case when using third party APIs such as OpenFeint. Zynga have a whole raft of ‘X with friends’ games in this category and have built an eco-system aimed at capturing that user data and then cross-promoting their games (thus avoiding the $2/user cost of acquiring users through other channels). Most developers are unlikely to be able to afford to replicate that ecosystem too any degree. Equally, as these game can be played as a single player experience, the user’s motivation to connect social network accounts and to enable ‘sharing’ etc is not necessarily high. Visibility of the game name and link on Facebook is a positive factor but one that is limited by the fact that the game isn’t immediately playable on that platform if you are not using Facebook on the same mobile device. Score 5/10

Synchronous multiplayer mobile games – whilst there is the logical argument that players must have other players with whom to interact with in this case, (a) the potential user reach is fairly insignificant, and (b) the likelihood is that you will be paired with/against strangers by the system (in order to ensure there are enough people to take part) rather than being required/motivated to bring new players that you actually know into the game. Score 2/10.

Asynchronous multiplayer mobile games – these are the very definition of what makes the foundation for a genuine virally-promoted game as you have to have friends to play with or against or you can’t play yourself. There is not alternative state. These games – such as OMGPOPs Draw Something – invariable involve a very early screen asking you to connect Facebook or Twitter accounts or to send out email invitations. There is certainly a trust barrier here and having a genuinely stellar game offering is unquestionably of fundamental importance, but get that right and your entire userbase is acting to expand itself. Make a great game that is unquestionably fun and which delivers that fun over a sustained time period (e.g. has longevity to the play experience) and you have a hit on your hands that should only need seeding with an initial paid-for userbase. Score 10/10.

So, asynchronous multiplayer games it is then…..but what makes for a good asynchronous game?

Mobile gameplay needs to be designed not simply just to work on mobile devices but also to be designed for the mobile device user. These are quite different things that are often overlooked. Just because the iPhone 4/iPad2 could deliver highly impressive raw computational and graphical power capable of delivering ‘near console’ game experiences doesn’t make it appropriate to do so. Who has 20+ hours to play a game on their iPhone where each level takes 20minutes or more?

An inelegant but essentially accurate term to describe the prevalent modality of use is ‘dip in and dip out’ gameplay. Contextual scenarios involving stops at traffic lights or being in the queue in Starbucks typically get used to illustrate this and these resonate with casual geeks and professional analysts alike. They also ignore the fact that something like 50% of mobile game play time actually happens in bed or on the sofa where the user sessions are not measured in seconds but dozens of minutes. ‘Dip in and dip out’ gaming is certainly very important but it is not the only factor.

We are only just beginning to understand the specialist craft of effective mobile game design but a crude rule of thumb of revaluating any game concept’s appropriateness for mobile deployment (versus PC, Facebook etc) could simply be:

[1] Is this game fundamentally fun because I can play it anytime and anywhere?

[2] Can I start playing, stop playing and re-start playing with minimal ease?

To those questions we can then assess the level of genuine organic user acquisition by asking:

[3] Is this game made fun because people being able to play with or against their friends is central to it’s design?

If you can answer ‘yes, yes and yes’ then go build that game!

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Monday, 24 September 2012

Supercomputer Genius Watson Is Headed for the Cloud #yam

Watson, the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer developed by IBM, could become a cloud-based service that people can consult on a wide range of issues, the company announced last week. "Watson is going to be an advisor and an assistant to all kinds of professional decision-makers, starting in healthcare and then moving beyond. We're already looking at a role for Watson in financial services and in other applications," says John Gordon, Watson Solutions Marketing Manager at IBM in New York.

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NeuroDojo: Why I published a paper on my blog instead of a journal #yam

TL;DR: I had a research project that has been sitting for more than a decade without finding a home in a scientific journal, so I decided to post it on my blog instead as an experiment.

Yesterday, I posted an original scientific paper here on my blog. The obvious question is, “Why is it on the blog instead of in a peer-reviewed journal?”

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Why aren’t universities creating engaging mobile platforms for students? — #yam

Universities are in a great position to deliver a mobile platform to their students, but too many are doing it all wrong (if they’re doing anything at all). Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of education technology company Rafter, looks at the roadblocks and the advantages to embracing mobile technology on campus.

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Joseph Hill: iOS 6, A Leap Forward in the Special Needs Community #yaw

Yesterday Apple announced their new operating system iOS 6, and I immediately began to cheer. Not for the normal fanboy reasons, although I am an Apple fanboy, and an Apple developer, but because what I saw was a company that not only is pushing the limits of mobile technology, but one that is thinking about persons who can use technology to aid them in their everyday lives.

Apple yesterday introduced "Guided Access" a feature aimed at children to keep them from exiting out of the program assigned to them. It is sort of a fail safe built into the iPhone and iPad to keep the child focused on the task at hand, whether it be a book or a test administered by a teacher.

That's extremely cool, but what was even more impressive was that Apple is proud that feature can help children with Autism. They even went out of their way to mention in the keynote that they know that children with Autism are using the iPad, and that this feature can keep them focused on apps that can help them. How awesome is that? What company do you know that mentions they are proud of options that can help children with Autism?

I stood up out of my chair at my day job and yelled "YES! A company finally gets it!" I immediately went and downloaded the developer version of iOS 6 and the first feature I explored was the Guided Access. Those of you who are parents of normally developing children and children with special needs hear me, it is rad. If you want your child to learn and you are spending money on apps that can teach them, this feature is a giant leap forward. Even I, as an ADHD adult, loved it. It keeps me focused and keeps me from wandering to and fro on my little iPhone.

I say all of this because I am proud and happy that a tech company that takes pride in its accessibility options for disabled individuals. That it cares enough to make extra features to help people who wouldn't normally be able to use this fun technology. They don't have to do that, yet they choose to and it helps people.

Does Apple make a profit because they sell more devices? Absolutely. I don't care about that. They aren't exploiting our loved ones with these devices. Rather, they are enabling everyone, no matter their developmental circumstance, to be able to enjoy and learn from new technology, and that's a company in the tech world that I will happily endorse. The future is bright, and yes, even a mobile operating system is a sign of that.

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Stack Exchange and Google partner with US government to battle bogus patents | The Verge #yam

The tech industry has been plagued over the last decade with an explosion of patent trolls who collect very broad patents and use them to sue corporations and startups alike. The recent American Invents Act sought to remedy this by opening up the process, giving everyone access to recently-filed patents and a six-month period to respond with prior art that would invalidate the new patents under consideration by proving them to be full of obvious and existing ideas.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) realized that if this new process was going to work, it needed help from some savvy tech firms. So it reached out to Stack Exchange, a "There are probably hundreds of patent applications every week that aren't true inventions."New York startup which has built some of the most robust question & answer sites on the web, especially around subjects like programming and computer science. Stack Exchange is building a new community, Ask Patents, where patent officers and interested parties can exchange information.

"The escalation of the patent wars has lead companies to try to patent everything in sight, so they can build up a portfolio of patents to "defend themselves." And the imperative to get a lot of patents means that sometimes they submit things which aren't exactly inventions per se," said StackExchange co-founder Joel Spolsky. "When I started looking at this project, I thought finding prior art would be tricky, but the truth is, there are probably hundreds of patent applications every week that aren't true inventions."

The community site will be tied in with Google's Patent Search, which last month added a prior art function. When searching for prior art around a specific patent, users will now see a "discuss" button which links to Stack Exchange's Ask Patent's site, where they can go to debate whether a certain patent is worth contending. There will be direct links from Ask Patents to the USPTO's submittal engine, along with instructions on how to proceed, and links from each discussion will pull in relevant information from Google's archive of patent data.

The USPTO had tried a limited form of crowdsourcing before, but it was only open to a few hundred users. The results were encouraging, explained Alex Miller, the general manager at Stack Exchange. "While small, it proved that crowdsourcing prior art could work and now we're opening it up to everyone."


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Monday, 17 September 2012

IT apprenticeships: the time is right - CIO UK Magazine

I last wrote about IT apprenticeships, and their growing importance in widening the pool of IT talent and addressing skills shortages, in this column in April 2011.

In the 17 months since then, we have seen more action, more initiatives and more interest in the concept than over the whole of the previous decade.

And those developments are likely to be of interest to any CIO planning the future staffing of their own department.

A significant move towards a sound national structure for IT apprenticeships was achieved this February when nine major players including Accenture, Atos, Capgemini, CSC, Fujitsu, HP, Logica, Siemens and Steria) signed a new charter for the employment of apprentices.

Supported by e-skills UK (the Sector Skills Council for Business and IT), the British Computer Society (BCS) and Business in the Community (BiTC), the nine succeeded in defining six specific apprenticeship roles and agreeing on matters such as entry qualifications, pay scales, training requirements, timescales, standards and routes to professionally qualified status.

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All nine companies came to the table convinced of their own uniqueness, but once they started delving into the detail of how apprentices would be working, and in what roles, it became clear that the similarities from company to company greatly outweighed the differences, which were often largely down to individual company jargon.

The charter agreement has had a dramatic impact in just six months, with the number of apprentices taken on by the nine vendors rising from 200 last year to 500 confirmed places for this September's recruitment round, and further major expansion planned over the next few years.

All the companies involved are clear that this expansion is not at the expense of graduate recruitment programmes which will continue to be a major source of new talent.

It is a point taken up by Mark Heholt of e-skills: “Apprenticeships are available to incomers of all ages, but are particularly appealing to school leavers. Their expansion will help fill skills gaps in the industry, and provide employment opportunities in this key sector to people with a broad range of backgrounds and prior achievements.”

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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Imagine Cup - Welcome to world class competitions and challenges for students

All dreams are now welcome.

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is the world’s most prestigious student technology competition, bringing together student innovators from all over the world. If you have a great idea for a new app, bring it to life through Imagine Cup. With Microsoft resources and support, you can make a great app and win travel and cash prizes!

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Power Searching with Google – Inside Search – Google

Power Searching with Google A free course to help you become a better searcher

Knowing how to find answers on Google is an important skill in today’s digital age. Taught by Google’s Search experts, this online class will help you search smarter, so you can find the information you need — even in the most challenging situations.

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Google Launches Free Tool To Let You Run Your Own Online Courses | Edudemic

Sensing the excitement from online education tools like edX, Google has just unveiled a (very beta) version of its own course building software. If you’ve ever wanted to run your own online courses, this might be worth your time.

Google’s new Course Builder software comes on the heels of a massively popular online Google class ‘Power Searching With Google‘ hosted by Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig.

Click here to get started with Google’s new Course Builder

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How To Integrate Live Tweets Into Your Presentations | Edudemic

I’ve seen plenty of presentations that try to incorporate social media, polling, and other interactive tools. It’s all an effort to engage the audience and keep the conversation going. But usually these presentations don’t do it right. They say ‘mention my presentation with the XYZ hashtag’ or ‘like us on Facebook to see back-channel conversations’ and whatnot. But all of that is passive participation.

Lucky for you, we just stumbled across a new tool that’s designed to incorporate live tweets into your presentation. What could be better than that? While these tweets may not all be perfect and some may not be professional / appropriate, it’s a great tool to know about.

It’s called SAP Web 2.0 it’s as simple to use as PowerPoint. In fact, you just add in a slide that is supplied to you and that’s it. Quite simple. Click here to check out the instructions page on how to use SAP Web 2.0.

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10 Big (But Never Discussed) Problems With Mobile Learning | Edudemic

The mobile learning revolution is creating a lot of buzz in the education world, and the benefits undoubtedly stand out. But nothing exists as a purely positive entity. While the movement toward “m-learning” (as those totally in the know call it) marks a change in how education approaches technological developments, anyone considering the developing tools needs to research the downsides before making the leap.

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Irving Wladawsky-Berger: Reflections on the Longevity of Mainframes

At the end of August, IBM announced the latest member of its mainframe family, the zEnterprise EC12.  As pointed out in the announcement, the new system is a result of more than $1B in R&D investments over the past four years, resulting in major improvements in performance, security, availability and other key enterprise features.  But perhaps, what is most impressive about this announcement, is the longevity of the IBM mainframe, which is now in its 48th year.  Few computer families having major announcements in 2012 could trace their vintage to the 1980s, let alone the 1960s.  There is something pretty unique about the mainframe being not only alive but well after all these years.

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Windows 8 App Developer Registration is Now Open! Here’s What you Need to Know. | MarkedUp

Windows 8 App Developer Registration is Now Open! Here’s What you Need to Know.

Today’s an exciting day if your an individual Windows 8 app developer. The store now open. Before you go off and open your shinny new developer account here are few last minute good to know.

If your a STUDENT, MSDN subscriber or BizSpark member you get your Windows 8 developer account for FREE! The links below will get you to the right place. You’ll be given a registration code to enter when you sign up for your Windows 8 developer account.

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Ready? Set? Go! Windows 8 Store now Open to All - Microsoft UK Students

Come one come all - submissions to the Windows Store are now open to all developers! And guess what? For students, that access comes at no cost. Just like the Windows Phone Marketplace, you can free and paid for apps as a student without having to buy a developer registration, and get all the other benefits around in app purchasing and advertising right out of the box. Ok, so it doesn't come in a box. But you know what we mean.

On top of this 'big announcement' we’re also announcing a number of additional subscription program offerings that recognize and thank developers for their interest and commitment to Windows. All eligible MSDN subscribers receive a free, one-year Windows Store developer account as part of their MSDN benefits. (Eligible subscriptions include Visual Studio Professional, Test Professional, Premium, Ultimate, and BizSpark.). So even if you're getting ready to leave education and start your own business, or go work in the technology industry, you're covered.

Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous

Friday, 7 September 2012

Maykah builds girls' interest in science - SFGate

Maykah builds girls' interest in science

Ellen Lee
Updated 3:02 a.m., Friday, August 17, 2012

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  • Bettina Chen (left), Jennifer Kessler and Alice Brooks founded Stanford startup Maykah, which develops toys that encourage young girls to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Photo: Sarah Rice, Special To The Chronicle / SF

    Bettina Chen (left), Jennifer Kessler and Alice Brooks founded Stanford startup Maykah, which develops toys that encourage young girls to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Photo: Sarah Rice, Special To The Chronicle / SF
  • Maykah's founders say childhood toys sparked their interests in technology. Their new toy, Roominate, allows young girls to build their own dollhouse. Photo: Sarah Rice, Special To The Chronicle / SF

    Maykah's founders say childhood toys sparked their interests in technology. Their new toy, Roominate, allows young girls to build their own dollhouse. Photo: Sarah Rice, Special To The Chronicle / SF


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Why Scotland's approach to publicly funded education works | Education | The Guardian

Why Scotland's approach to publicly funded education works

Unlike the 'three initiatives before breakfast' hyperactivity of the Engish regime, Scotland's modest, consensus-seeking approach celebrates education as a public good, says Melissa Benn

Michael Russell, cabinet secretary for education in the SNP government
Michael Russell, cabinet secretary for education in the SNP government, who declared himself 'stunned' at recently announced English plans to allow unqualified teachers into classrooms. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

Last week, a British education minister spoke eloquently of the necessity of a highly qualified teaching profession, free university learning and the vital importance of public education as a "societal, not just an individual, good".

No, Michael Gove has not had a radical change of heart over the summer break. The minister in question was Michael Russell, cabinet secretary for education in the SNP government. He and I were sharing a platform at a packed session at this year's Edinburgh book festival on "the value of education", with many cogent and passionate contributions from leading academics and educationalists.

The most immediate thing to strike a visitor from Planet Gove is how very different the atmosphere and assumptions are on this subject north of the border. With its proud tradition of the "democratic intellect", long history of compulsory education and world-renowned universities, the Scots seem genuinely to value their school system.

Here one finds very little teacher-bashing and scant reference to market solutions to social problems. At the Edinburgh event, the overriding concern was how to improve access by poorer students to higher and further learning and keep universities free, despite considerable pressure from an unholy alliance of English newspapers and Scottish conservatives. There is a heartening and robust belief in publicly funded, publicly accountable high-quality education.

Is this perhaps the very reason we in England hear so little about Scotland's education system, bar some envious carping at its avoidance of tuition fees? While every fashionable free-schooler or educational conservative has rushed to bash underfunded Wales as proof of comprehensive failure, or bemoaned attempts in Northern Ireland to eliminate its outmoded selective system, there is little discussion of the evident strengths of the Scottish comprehensive system.

In fact, Scotland has deliberately rejected what Russell accurately labels the Germ (Global Education Reform Movement) approach so beloved of the coalition, with its commitment to privatisation, competition and deregulation.

He is rightly scathing of the "three initiatives before breakfast" policy-hyperactivity of the current English government. At the Edinburgh session he declared himself "stunned" at recently announced English plans to allow unqualified teachers into classrooms. Rigorous teacher training is at the heart of the Scottish approach, and there are plans, modelled upon the Finnish example, to require every teacher to possess a master's in addition to a first degree.

Scotland publishes no official league tables, although individual schools obviously release their results. (Even Wales now publishes the results of secondary schools grouped into one of five bands.) The Scottish government is moving towards greater school self-evaluation and has, over the past decade, slowly rolled out a progressive "curriculum for excellence", in stark contrast to our own government's speedily devised, overly prescriptive and increasingly contested programmes for learning.

And it seems to be working. Results for Scottish highers, a formal examination taken between 16 and 19, have slowly climbed over the years and are up again in 2012, with no serious claims of grade inflation. From this year, pilot schemes will be rolled out, with the ultimate aim of each child learning two languages in addition to their own. And only last year, the Royal Society praised the high numbers of Scottish students – 49.7% – who study science to the higher levels, and suggested that the rest of the UK should emulate Scotland in this regard.

Denominational schooling is still a huge issue and while some indicators suggest that Scotland is better at educating its poorer students than we are in England, it remains, like all parts of the UK, dogged by an unacceptable attainment gap based on social class.

Acknowledging this, Russell points to "some spectacularly good practice" on improving the performance of low-income students in Glasgow's toughest schools. It is an approach, says Russell, consistent with Scotland's belief in "collaboration rather than competition". He adds succinctly: "We do not believe that poverty is destiny. But Kipp (a reference to the US Charter model) would not work for us."

Not perfect but improving: that seemed to be the general, modest consensus up in Edinburgh. Indeed, it may be that modesty and consensus-seeking are the hallmarks of Scotland's approach, in marked contrast to the "quick fix", grandstanding approach of Germ guerillas everywhere who deliberately seek to undermine public trust and confidence in the role of the state.

Scotland offers another model, celebrating both the possibilities of good government and education as a public good. As a result, it could well nudge ahead of busy old England in the years to come.

Melissa Benn's latest book School Wars: The Battle for Britain's Education is published by Verso


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  • madmonty

    27 August 2012 7:34PM

    In Scotland there are three professions still held in very high regard




    Education is still seen in Scotland as an important springboard for a career, and needs to nurtered and promoted. There was an old saying in Victorian times, 'The Scots or Welsh invented it, the English paid for it, and the Irish built it'.....I wonder why....

  • GenHernandez

    27 August 2012 8:05PM

    There was an old saying in Victorian times, 'The Scots or Welsh invented it, the English paid for it, and the Irish built it'.

    So that's where the myth that all tax is English comes from....

  • heedtracker

    27 August 2012 8:21PM

    Scotland offers another model, celebrating both the possibilities of good government and education as a public good
    Thank you Melissa! And thank you Guardian.

  • Wyvis7

    27 August 2012 8:55PM

    Bit of a paen to the past, isn't it? Meanwhile, Scotland is to return to a 'progressive' 1970's model of education.

  • Arethosemyfeet

    27 August 2012 9:04PM

    Whilst education in Scotland is in demonstrably better shape than in England, it's not without its own problems. CfE is under-resourced and lacking in clarity, with no guidance on what is actually meant by different levels, and a real paucity of support in general. New qualifications will be examined in less than 2 years' time and we have yet to see specimen exam papers, nor specimen instruments of assessment for internally examined modules. CfE has a lot of good ideas, and the move away from a constant focus on pushing students over the next hurdle is a refreshing change from Key Stage tests and the like, but the jury is still out on the overall impact.

  • Oldmanmackie

    27 August 2012 9:11PM

    Glad this has been picked up on by the media. We know it ain't perfect but it IS improving. There is also a growing improvement in 'joined-up' working between different professions within Education since the advent of the Curriculum for Excellence. It's still in its infancy but here in Fife there is already work afoot to cater for the differing demands of the young people. How it pans out over the coming years will be interesting. We're also working hard to ensure that every young person has an offer of further education once they reach the end of their schooling.

  • Oldmanmackie

    27 August 2012 9:13PM

    Agreed - it seems that alot of teachers are still unsure about how it is supposed to work and i've heard complaints that it is under-resourced. It is a great idea in theory but how it operates in practice will need to be reviewed to ensure that the priniciples are being met.

  • Rider000

    27 August 2012 9:49PM

    I wonder if the extra £2,600 per clasroom spend in Scotland per year has any impact?

  • maisiedotts

    27 August 2012 9:50PM

    Wow a positive article about Scotland in Guardian - I do not believe it! Good piece Melissa - thanks.

  • answer

    27 August 2012 10:33PM

    scotland even with free university fees manages to produce only 7.14% of new UK undergraduates in 2011.

    glad to help.

  • Ricosoavarooski

    27 August 2012 11:07PM

    Another reason for me to explore the possibility of filing a claim on ancestral family land near Bedrule, Teviotdale on the Borders --- where as it happens William Turnbull, founder of the University of Glasgow (1451) was born.
    There's something to be learned from the Scots, as usual.

  • Jimmy48

    27 August 2012 11:33PM

    Do you have a source for that claim? I tried to find figures on this briefly and unsuccessfully. According to Wikipedia, Scotland is 8.44% of the UK population so your figure is lower than expected. Numbers in post-secondary education are 739000 for Scotland, 3.7 million for England, which is about twice as many per head of population in Scotland. Different datasets of course, showing all types of post-secondary education rather than graduates, and not 2011. But until you post your source its all I have.

  • Billlogan

    27 August 2012 11:45PM

    People in England shouldn't be so easily convinced that schools in Scotland are any better than those in England. That view can be easily clouded by the fact that we sit different examinations and not many do courses as demanding as "A" levels, even though "Advanced Highers" should be available. In fact, hardly any employer understands what the current qualifications actually mean, such is the level of confusion. As an example, a GCSE age pupil could be studying for a Standard Grade at foundation, general or credit level. On the other hand, they could be studying for Intermediate 1 or Intermediate 2 and this is all for the one subject. Can you blame anyone for being confused? At least in England, Wales and Northern Ireland pupils all sit the same level of examinations, although they are set by different boards

    Of course, the government delighted the education establishment in Scotland by stopping publishing league tables but thankfully our newspapers publish them anyway, using information from This shows clearly that the vast majority of our top 20 performing state schools are in wealthy commuter suburbs and authorities such as East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire and Aberdeenshire, a fact that is not ignored by estate agents. It also shows us that the results in major cities like Glasgow and Dundee are lamentably low and very few pupils attain even basic university entrance qualifications.Another dark secret is the fact that state schools have proven to be quite unpopular in the capital city, Edinburgh, where over 25% of the secondary pupils are in private schools, a figure much higher than nearly every English city.

    Of course one thing that will delight Melissa Benn is that, unlike in England, every state schools became a comprehensive, although some are much more comprehensive than others and are all, bar one, run by local authorities. The interesting thing is that the single exception, Jordanhill School in Glasgow, is always comfortably the best performing state school in the country. In many countries a school like that may be a roll-model but in Scotland it has been ignored.

  • heedtracker

    28 August 2012 12:23AM

    Another dark secret is the fact that state schools have proven to be quite unpopular in the capital city, Edinburgh, where over 25% of the secondary pupils are in private schools,
    That's really weak. Do you live in Scotland? The fact that Embro has a high number of expensive private schools is hardly a "dark secret" LOL!
    Edinburgh has always been like this and if you lived in Scotland you would know that.
    The dark secrets of Edinburgh. Got any more? Like every year Edinburgh has a big arts festival maybe?

    • dorice

      28 August 2012 8:13AM

      As I've said - have a read of Allyson Pollock's 'NHS Franchising ' piece for something similar about public health.

      Something's happening - and I like it.

    • dorice

      28 August 2012 8:45AM

      Doesn't matter Rico.

      No matter what you read here about 'the Scots', almost 500,000 English people live and work in Scotland.

      I'm one of them (although I'm retired now).

      The fact that my mother was (mostly) Scottish doesn't matter. All are welcome, and as I've said here several times, my local SNP group consists of Scottish, English, Irish, Welsh, Cypriot, Turkish, Pakistani, Indian, New Zealand, Australian, Chinese, Polish, Lithuanian (newest members), and a few other nationalities as members and office-bearers.
      So 'Scots' ? Not really.
      All want the current Scottish Government as the government of an Independent Scotland, and all are proud of their own heritage.

      We also like the fact that 19 of the 20 members of the Scottish Government/Cabinet were educated at local authority schools (one went to Loretto), and all of those who went on to further education did so at Scottish universities and colleges. There are NO Oxbridge PPI Graduates among them, but there are graduates in Maths, Economics, various Sciences, English, Languages, History, Sociology, Medicine, and other 'real' subjects.
      And they all had lives before politics (Keith Brown was a Royal Marine Commando and fought at the sharp end of the Falklands War. I'm sure I met him a couple of years earlier)

      Perhaps, just perhaps, we'll now see an editorial looking at THIS fundamental difference between Holyrood and Westminster, and what it means for Government and the people who elected that Government ?

      We've been pointing out for some time that the Guardian has attacked, demeaned, insulted, and condemned the Scottish Government without justification.
      Some of it's 'in house' writers have used mis/disinformation and worse to do this, yet they are attacking a Government that the Guardian SHOULD be supporting, and holding up as an example of a genuine liberal/social democratic government - the ONLY one - in the UK.

      If this continues, and we see changes in the Guardian's 'Scottish Section', I might even reactivate my 40+ year subscription that I cancelled in disgust at the unwarranted and dishonest bias a few months ago !

    • yestogrammarschools

      28 August 2012 9:14AM

      The fact that Embro has a high number of expensive private schools is hardly a "dark secret" LOL!

      It wasn't mentioned by Melissa Benn. I hadn't known that over 25% of secondary pupils in Edinburgh were in private schools, so I'm grateful to Billlogan for pointing it out. It's the sort of thing that Scottish educationists should bear in mind, or they may start to believe in their own publicity.

    • maisiedotts

      28 August 2012 9:16AM

      If this continues, and we see changes in the Guardian's 'Scottish Section', I might even reactivate my 40+ year subscription that I cancelled in disgust at the unwarranted and dishonest bias a few months ago !

      2 swallows do not a summer make ............... I'll reserve judgement for some time on Guardian bias or lack of it.

    • Billlogan

      28 August 2012 9:39AM

      "I hadn't known that over 25% of secondary pupils in Edinburgh were in private schools, so I'm grateful to Billlogan for pointing it out. It's the sort of thing that Scottish educationists should bear in mind, or they may start to believe in their own publicity."

      I'm glad that I was able to give you that information which Scottish educationists like to keep quiet. I also came across this bit of information in the Economist, which must also be hurtful for those who trumpet about Scotland's "fairer" education system.

      "Scottish university students differ from their English counterparts in another, surprising way: they are particularly posh. What makes this puzzling is that just 4.3% of schoolchildren in Scotland attend private schools, compared to 7% in England. Yet the proportion of privately educated students in universities in Scotland is almost identical to that in England: 8.7% and 8.8%, respectively. Moreover the proportion of university students who come from the lower social classes is far lower in Scotland than in England: 27.9% compared to 31.4%, according to data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency on March 29th."

      I wonder if Melissa knew about these statistics before she wrote her ill-informed piece. so much for equality in what somebody described as the only social democratically governed part of the UK. Somehow I doubt it, as very few people do. In Scotland we sometimes ignore the facts and believe that if we repeat something often enough it must be true.

    • Jimmy48

      28 August 2012 9:46AM

      So when it suits your purposes you'll look at a small subset (Edinburgh) and say they have very high numbers of privately educated pupils, but later when it suits your purposes you'll point out that overall Scotland has a much lower percentage of pupils in private schools. This is shameless misuse of statistics.

    • dorice

      28 August 2012 9:53AM

      You might live in Scotland, but if you think Embra is 'posh', you're very wrong.

      It has the same problems as any/every other city - it just hides them very well. I moved there when Embra was called 'the Heroin Capital of Europe' - and it deserved that title.
      It also produced one of the largest, best organised, and most violent football hooligan gangs in the UK, if not Europe (Hibernian's 'Capital City Service')
      Yes, there are quite a few private schools there, and the reason for that is historic - it's nothing to do with any Government.
      Anyway, 7% of schools in England are private (and it's rising), while only 4%-4.5% of Scottish schools are private.
      I can think of a few former private schools that are now Local Authority - Marr, Royal High in Embra being two.
      Jordanhill in Weegie is interesting. It's funded directly by Holyrood, not the Local Authority, isn't fee-paying, but is listed as 'Independent' ... but it isn't .
      Can anyone explain this ?
      All I know about the school is that I played in the Front Row against Ian McLauchlan during the 70's and it hurt.

      I don't like the idea of comparing cities. London has 8.2 million people, and it's 33 Boroughs have populations equal to most other cities in the UK ! How can we compare London with Edinburgh - pop 421,000, or Birmingham with 1.1 million, and Dundee with 125,000 ? I think 32 of London's Boroughs have bigger populations than Dundee !

      Do you have any percentages for Edinburgh ? I've looked, and while there are 17 private schools listed, that includes primary schools, and schools with few pupils.
      There are 21 Local Authority Secondary Schools, averaging around 1,000 pupils.

      One thing to remember about Embra's private schools - many of their pupils are boarders - they don't come from Edinburgh.
      Fettes, Watsons, Merchiston, Stew-Mel, and a few other all have boarders, but how many I don't know.

      Then there's the likes of Gordonstoun. No city, but with 500 boarders (from a roll of 600) we could probably 'prove' that more kids in Moray are privately educated in boarding schools there than ... well .... you choose.
      The nearest village is Duffus, and considering the school's Royal connections, how I wish it was called 'Doofus'.

    • Billlogan

      28 August 2012 10:00AM

      "Edinburgh is proud of and famous for it's private schools and anyone considering one knows that,
      You're a tory troll and that's not "a dark secret"

      I'm glad that you are proud of Edinburgh's private schools and so you should be. I'm not in the least insulted by your term "tory troll", as I try my best not to throw personal insults at or misinform people and will always apologise if I make an error. Veritas is what matters in the end.

    • answer

      28 August 2012 10:00AM

      scotland punching above it's weight in Nursing! (10% of scots university places dedicated to nursing)

      2011 new undergraduates to Nursing (B7)

      2,960 scotland

      but only

      19,483 England

      2011 new undergraduates to Economics (L1)

      133 scotland (133 is not a typo)

      but only

      5,059 England

      2011 new undergraduates to Education (X)

      949 scotland

      but only

      14,555 England

      glad to help.

    • maisiedotts

      28 August 2012 10:07AM

      Addendum to my previous post.

      You are aware that private schools in Edinburgh have a high percentage of pupils from outwith the region who either commute (day pupils) or board (full-time or weekly) but are not technically Edinburgh "residents" surely?

      The Dundee/Fife rush hour trains are testimony to the high number of "day" pupils. I'm equally sure that is true from Perthshire and other parts of Scotland including Glasgow.

    • maisiedotts

      28 August 2012 10:20AM

      I try my best not to throw personal insults at or misinform people and will always apologise if I make an error.

      Then you'd better start apologising and checking your "facts" before posting.

      How many of the private schools do "day", "weekly" and "fulltime" boarding and what % of the given figure for pupils come from outwith the City and Region?

      I've just checked two schools Loretto and Stewart's Melville, they both do.

    • dorice

      28 August 2012 10:25AM

      Where did you get the '25%' for Edinburgh ?

      I've looked, and it's not even close to that.

      And why do you 'doubt' that Holyrood is the UK's only genuinely social democrat government ? You have your opinion, I deal in facts.
      Those facts include the policies and principles of the Scottish Government - many of which have either been passed into law, or will be in the future.
      It's that only UK Government that has equal, human, and civil rights as a central part of government, and the fact that every bill is preceded by an extensive public consultation adds to that.
      Most Bills are passed with all-party support.
      It's the only government that opposes the privatisation of it's health and education services.

      You accuse the author of being 'ill-informed'. I'd like to see some evidence supporting your allegation.

      I know you support Osborne's policies, I know you don't like single mothers, 'unchecked' immigration, and believe that only heterosexual parents can provide the right conditions for children.
      Yet you oppose Trident (so we agree on that if nothing else).

      However, you lack knowledge when it comes to Scotland and what actually happens here. For example, many in the SNP think Labour's idea of 'everyone going to university' is ridiculous. They'd rather see a policy of more real apprenticeships leading to real jobs - and that's happening.
      Everyone SHOULD have access to Further Education, and that's what we have in Scotland. That a slightly smaller percentage choose NOT to go to college or university means nothing - only that they have chosen not to !
      You seem to be suggesting that only university admissions should be used to judge the success of an education system, and THAT is a (failed) Labour principle.

      It will take some time for the CfE to show results, but the principle is that every child has a talent, and that talent should be identified, encouraged, supported, and advanced.
      There are theoretical physicists, mathematicians, artists, surgeons, teachers, plumbers, brickies, IT specialists, and more in our 'sink' estates.
      We just have to identify them and give them the opportunity to flourish, and that's what should happen.

  • Not really, that is because most of Scotland's private schools are within the City of Edinburgh precincts. Higher number of private schools - higher number of boarders, weekly boarders and day pupils from outwith Edinburgh. Which then makes the figures totally skewed, and that % cannot be relied upon as accurate for Edinburgh only residents/children.

    Makes one wonder whether the proportion of private pupils in Scotland is similar to the proportion of pupils from families resident in Scotland who are at private schools.

    Unlikely. Ask yourself this do the pupils represent those only with familes living within the City? That is the definitive figure which so far no-one has given.

    I know of a family in Wales who sent sons to Shrewsbury School (in England).

    Many pupils at Gordonstoun for example are not children of those resident in Scotland either. I'm not sure what that "proves" other than parents decide to send their children to fee paying private schools so therefore choose according to reputation and/or where they themselves were pupils.

    It's a false dichotomy, without the actual figures for the home address at which pupils normally reside a true figure for Edinburgh resident pupils cannot be reached.

    Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous