I am continually astonished by people’s misconceptions or misinformation about education in general, and ICT in particular. To be more accurate, I am often shocked, but no longer surprised, at how poorly education tends to be reported on in the press – at least in my experience when it concerns stuff I know about.
“Listen to this ludicrous piece of research, which says that spinach is bad for you because lots of old people who were encouraged to eat spinach in their youth are now dying.”
To which Elaine would reply:
“It’s probably been badly reported.”
Well, fair enough. But surely everyone can understand education?
However, it seems not. Just the other day someone I know told me that at least ICT no longer needs to be taught, a situation she learnt of from a newspaper. When Michael Gove, the English Education Secretary, declared that the ICT Programme of Study was being disapplied, he stated emphatically that ICT itself was still compulsory. Yet the press reported that ICT had been scrapped.
I am never sure whether this sort of reporting (I can think of several other examples) is the result of lazy journalism, lack of comprehension or simply the need for speed – not only on the part of the writer, but also the reader. (After all, a headline like “ICT scrapped” is more punchy, and easier to digest, than “ICT disapplied but still mandatory”.)
To be honest, not all of the blame can be laid at the door of the media. According to the British Educational Suppliers Association’s, "Information and Communication Technology in UK State Schools", 2012, 37% of primary school ICT leaders, and 25% of secondary ones, were unaware of the Government’s policy towards ICT. How can you manage a subject without knowing Government policy concerning it? Unless, of course, they weren’t sure because of the confusing coverage in the media.
So, what can people do about it? Unfortunately, the obvious solution, that of reading several different media reports, doesn’t work as a rule, because they often simply publish the official press release. In my opinion, the only way to find out what is really going on is to join a community of professionals in that field, be that an organisation like Naace or ISTE, an online community like Computing At School, or an appropriate Twitter list, or all of those and more.
Even if nobody in the community knows the answer to a particular question or issue, I find just the knowledge that I am not alone in not knowing quite reassuring. As Tony Parkin put it recently, there is something about “shared ignorance”.
And at least, in such a situation, all concerned will know that they don’t know – which is a much better situation to be in than thinking you know something you don’t because you saw or heard it in the media!