#gbl10 A colleague of mine, when asked by a primary school teacher how best to prepare her class for secondary school answered, without hesitation, "De-skill them." That was around 6 years ago.
Twelve years ago, asked to show a group of newly-qualified high school teachers examples of excellent practice in ICT, I arranged a visit to a local primary school.
Around the same time, a geography teacher showed me what he'd been doing with his year 9 students (14 year-olds) in the realm of data-handling.
"What do you think of that?", he beamed.
"I think it's brilliant.", I replied. "In fact, I thought it was brilliant when I saw it in a Year 4 class last week."
Not the best way to make friends and influence people, perhaps, but the point was well-made, and still holds true today: if you want to see innovative, exciting, engaging ICT, you're more likely to strike lucky if you visit a primary school than a secondary school.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not knocking the teachers. I think that in an environment that puts such a high premium on getting the grades, any teacher who tries something different, and therefore a little risky, is either supremely confident or somewhat unhinged. Possibly both.
So it's not surprising to hear Edith, the young lady who complained last year that she and her friends were being under-taught in ICT, bemoan the fact that games in her ICT lessons are an add-on, a reward at the end of term. Not only that, the games she showed are pretty one-dimensional to say the least.
Having said that, I do think there is a place for such games, as long as you take into account various factors. It comes down to appropriateness: if it helps the student learn in a challenging and engaging way, that's fine. But the teacher should still aim to raise the game (pardon the pun) as soon as possible. My yardstick is how much perspiring the student is doing: if they're too relaxed, not even breaking into a sweat, the activity is not challenging enough.
Before making way for Edith, I should like to observe a couple of things. Firstly, that despite Edith's deprecatory comments, the fact that she knows the terminology associated with spreadsheets presumably means that her teachers haven't done such a bad job after all.
Secondly, and Edith did mention this, games are useful for what students can learn from playing them. So if students can learn about modelling from a game, that's OK. If not, then a challenging project involving spreadsheet modelling is absolutely fine: contrary to what is sometimes said, spreadsheets are not inherently boring; they just look that way!
Enough! Listen to Edith.
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We're always interested in hearing the views of young people, so it was with great pleasure that Elaine and I interviewed Edith. Edith is a teenager living in England, and has some definite views about the teaching of information and communications studies (ICT).
I saw her, not for the first time, at a recent Teachmeet and was struck by her statement that she, and her peers, were being 'under-taught'. This ties in with what I reported in a recent newsletter:
"It's been found recently , by Ofsted, that teachers tend to teach ICT up to the limit of their own knowledge, and that this effectively holds children back."
In this interview we explore this and other issues. The podcast lasts just over 19 minutes.
The music after the introduction and at the end is Simple Soulman by The Groovebusters, and is under a Creative Commons licence. Hear the band at:
Edith is 14 and attends school in England. She has spoken at Teachmeet events, such as the North London Teachmeet in 2009.
To respond to Edith, please submit a comment in the comments area below, or send me an email.
If you enjoyed listening to Edith's views you may also like our interview with Miller, an American teenager. That will be posted here on the 11th December 2009.
And you will probably enjoy the following: What are your kids learning while you're not looking?
That was the title of a presentation that Miles Berry and I did at the BETT Show 2009. Based on original research, it made it very clear that teachers make life more difficult for themselves, and less than interesting for their students, by ignoring what their students can already do.
For more information, including a link to Miles' blog on the subject and a slide show, see my article on What are your kids learning while you're not looking? There is also a more up-to-date article I wrote for the IFIP newsletter, which is based in India.