Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a talk given by Dr Tom Crick (at the Microsoft “Partners in Learning” conference). Tom clearly knows his stuff, is well informed and clearly understands the national debate surrounding ICT (link). The headline quote is his!
With Michael Gove possibly opening BETT, the Royal Society review due in January and the national curriculum review I have to say that I wouldn’t bet against this.
So let’s take a minute to think this through ….
ICT dropped as a subject … presumably ICT is taught across the curriculum?
We are all fully aware of the problems that occur when ICT is taught by nonspecialists so this move would suggest that ICT will now be taught entirely by nonspecialists, does this make sense? The problem seems to be expressed as “pupils leave school with insufficient depth of understanding of ICT” so the answer is to take away ICT altogether?
ICT should be dropped because of its focus on the teaching of applications so the proposal is that nobody teaches how to use any of the applications? will some pupils will leave school with a very narrow experience and confidence of ICT.
As we move "into the cloud" safety issues looks set to become increasingly demanding, presumably 100+ teachers in secondary school will attend regular e-safety events?
I’ve heard it said that PSHE can oversee the digital literacy curriculum, I’ll leave you to form your own judgements about that.
A lot of work has gone into understanding how pupils might progress in ICT. The fact that this is difficult is exemplified at the end of KS4 by the need to produce reams of evidence (with screenprints of everything). It might be that "capability" is difficult to measure but I don’t think the answer to the problem is to ignore the problem and do something else. Progression is of critical importance. Using a complicated formula in a spreadsheet does not improve the modelling exercise.
Very few teachers have any formal ICT qualification. Even amongst ICT specialists formal qualifications are scarce. Amongst the few that have formal qualifications a small subset understand programming. Most programming in schools is taught by "how to do it “, real programming requires very high level mathematical skills and probably a high level of skill in art and physics as well . Yet we are told that “Computer Science”will be on offer to all students, where are the teachers coming from? Current A-level teachers tell me proudly that the students teach themselves (via YouTube), am I the only person who sees a flaw here,
Worst Case Scenario
To quote Private Frazer "we’re doomed Captain Mainwaring"
School drops ICT and adopts ICT across the curriculum. ICT coordinator takes computer science lessons +50% geography.
Computer science becomes “how to program in C using visual studio” (if you’re lucky), teach yourself via YouTube
Subject teachers have ICT in their lesson plans but are keen to avoid it and hope that something goes wrong. Something does go wrong but the teachers unaware and the children don’t tell them (playing line Rider is more fun than the lesson anyway). Work is completed (by parents?) using ICT at home but because the teacher has no idea how it was done it must be level 7. Black market in coursework
ICT no longer a concern for schools. Much lower priority at teacher training. Game over.
Having said all of this you might be surprised to hear that I agreed with most of what Tom had to say, I would like to see "computer science" on the curriculum staffed by teachers with degrees in programming (although as industry is crying out for these I’m not sure where they are going to come from). My disagreement is that this might be a suitable route for maybe 10% of our students, let’s not forget the other 90%.
ICT is just a tool …. Like Maths English Science History Geography etc etc