I have just returned from listening to the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon give a talk about the plans her government has for raising attainment in Scottish schools. She talked passionately about her desire to address this attainment gap and the resultant poorer life prospects for so many of our children who grow up in areas of social deprivation and who fail to reach their full potential. A £100 million attainment fund has been proposed with the new position of Attainment Officers being identified as significant people to help drive this aim forward. All very promising indeed.
There were no finer accompanying details of these plans but the intention has my 100% support. We must address this attainment gap and ensure that the talents and abilities of all our children are nurtured and developed to their full potential.
As I listened to the talk it made me think back to one of my early projects using Nintendo DS and the game Dr Kawashima's Brain Training. At that time we were interested to see how a game such as this one (that had basic maths elements embedded in the game play) might impact on primary school children's mental maths abilities. However, we were even keener to see how this approach might impact on children in schools that were situated in Local Authority areas where their indicators of higher levels of social deprivation. Our subsequent research found that this indeed did have significant impact and as a result of this we found ourselves exploring game based learning and subsequently helping to change the discourse around the potential that commercial computer games might have on learning - and in doing so helping to create the conditions in which better outcomes for learners was happening.
We then found ourselves in Scotland at the head of a leading momentum in to the place, purpose and nature of games based learning. Much of the success of what we did and the unfortunate and disappointing demise of this Scottish success story was detailed here.
However, a month or so ago I discovered that all trace of the body of work that we, along with our Local Authority colleagues and the children and the parents created over the years was no longer available to be viewed. Gone, deleted from the Education Scotland site...a big fat 404 when searched for - erased from trace. Is it Year Zero at Education Scotland? So if indeed I wished to share what this practice and how the underpinning methodology we used and how it may be relevant to Nicola Sturgeon or Angela Constance's thinking about their Attainment gap plans then I can't do it via this site anymore. As the Proclaimers might say, Mario Kart no more, Professor Layton no more, Guitar Hero no more...Nintendogs no more.
I still have digital copies of all this material however it would be ethically wrong of me to post these on a YouTube site for example because those videoed only agreed for it to be shared on LTS/Education Scotland's digital channels.
So much of this work is significant in the role that it still plays in helping inform teachers about innovative uses of digital technology but more importantly it has a very valuable role to play in documenting the developing narrative of approaches to using digital tech in schools, in this case game based learning. Here for example is something from 1998 that is still online via NAACE's website. I still use this to help inform students about ideas and progress.
I inquired about the rationale that would explain this decision and was simply told that there had been a review of their online services and I was subsequently given a link to the Wayback Machine from 2007 to the very first page we published.
What are they thinking of at Education Scotland in doing this? They are the custodians of such material and they have a duty to understand, respect and value the role that they play in being part of the wider collegiate and connected digital world that helps continually inform our thinking and practice. What are they thinking of with such digital book burning?
No doubt Education Scotland will be central to taking forward this planned for Attainment Gap strategy. If they do then I suggest that a discussion about their long term thinking and appreciation of what they are involved in and the importance of their central role is fully recognised and established so that in the future they cannot simply decide to erase any future work from their digital estate as a result of an online review.