What did Michael Gove say?

The keynote address at BETT on Wednesday revealed what we all expected (though not quite as definitively as we may have thought) – a consultation is to begin to withdraw the Programme of Study with effect from Sept 2012.

IT is to remain compulsory at ALL KEY STAGES (but everyone is now ‘free’ to interpret what they think this means).

The other big announcement was that ICT could join the English Baccalaureate group of subjects.

Mr Gove highlighted 3 immediate aspects where technology can impact learning:

  1. The potential to disseminate learning (examples quoted were O2, Kahn University, iTunesU and others)
  2. Changing the methodology of both teaching and learning (eg games based learning and Adaptive Software (see web 4 in an earlier nugget))
  3. Methods of assessment including the communication to both learner and parent.

Schools and businesses are encouraged to create their own curriculums.

The full text of the speech can be read here.

My reaction is that Mr Gove has missed the point.  It isn’t the curriculum that is at fault, fundamentally it’s about good teaching.

The Programme of Study (PoS)  is a fine piece of work but in general schools have given it little attention or importance, the usual model of one hour a week and non specialist staff has led to a ‘dumbed down’ curriculum in practice which can be taught by anyone who isn’t scared of a computer.  Resources are expensive and frequently schools ‘cope’ with what they have, underlying technologies are difficult and technical support is frequently insufficient (how many school have a really effective wireless network for example?).

ICT changes massively week by week and yet staff training is minimal – how many people even know how to search the web effectively for example? (“you suspect that you may have a serious illness, how would you search the web and filter out inappropriate articles”, “How would you find the latest research”?).  The work done by Alan November (eg Web Literacy For Educators) is hugely significant but how many teachers have even read this? how often is ‘web searching’ in ICT lessons about pretending to plan a trip?

I think that the PoS IS in need of an update and I think that clearer examples of what is meant at different levels would definitely be helpful.  I think that the addition of a ‘Computer Science’ course for those who want it should definitely be available in all comprehensive schools (up to A Level), I also think that there IS a place for vocationally orientated courses as well (eg ECDL or MOS – many people I know REALLY want to be able to make the thing just work and yet there are MANY office workers who cannot master basic word-processing skills (terrible online forms are a particular bugbear of mine). HOWEVER there is a LOT of good in what we have.

I feel that the ‘build your own’ curriculum idea has been responsible for some terrible schemes of work.  The idea that you can buy a complete set of lessons, plug in the children and that’s all you need – is a myth, whether is the Thomas Telford model or the National Strategies or Teach ICT or the Learn-ICT materials.  That isn’t to say these materials are ‘bad’ – quite the reverse – but it’s the way that they are used that is critical.

Fundamentally it’s about good teaching.

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