There has been much discussion about the curriculum in general in England recently, and the ICT curriculum in particular. I wrote about the latter a few months ago, in an article entitled 5 Characteristics of an Ideal Programme of Study for ICT. Now, three months and two draft versions of a new ICT Programme of Study later, I should like to put forward a few comments, both about the area of “ICT curriculum” in general, and about recent developments in the UK in particular.
The phrase “May you live in interesting times” is usually cited as a sort of curse, but can you imagine the opposite, ie living in boring times? Fortunately, especially here in England there is no danger of that for a while, at least in the world of ICT. Here are a few snippets of news which I won’t comment on at the moment because I like to cogitate, reflect, and then cogitate some more before pontificating. As I said in a previous article (10 Obligations of Bloggers), quoting Salvator Rosa, I believe in the adage “Be silent, unless what you have to say is better than silence”.
ICT teacher Nigel Willetts discusses ICT qualifications and their associated syllabuses. This is a longer-than-usual article, but it's a great rant read. Enjoy!
I apologise in advance. What follows is a rant! Terry was forewarned! However, the purpose of such a rant is to instigate a debate with regard to what we, as ICT teachers/specialists are expected to deliver and examine our pupils on in our schools. The focus is firmly on the GCSE/AS and A2 ICT curriculum. I am not even sure if I have any tangible answers myself, but, in my experience of educationalists, we all love a good rant/debate, don’t we?
It’s astonishing how everyone is an expert on school education these days. Everyone, that is, except the people who actually work in and with schools. The latest half-baked idea appeared in the BETT opening speech by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary for England & Wales. Here’s what he said:
Universities, businesses and others will have the opportunity to devise new courses and exams. In particular, we want to see universities and businesses create new high quality Computer Science GCSEs, and develop curricula encouraging schools to make use of the brilliant Computer Science content available on the web.
This is a dreadful idea for several reasons.
One of the apparently insoluble problems of the age is how do you encourage more girls to take up ICT or Computing? I think a lot can be done, and have done so myself, but I wonder how far a lot of the effort fails to get to the heart of the issue, which could be the curriculum itself, the way it is taught, or a combination of the two?
ICT in the ‘old’ National Curriculum as it stands in my opinion is completely unfit for purpose. A curriculum written 10 years ago can in no way reflect the changes in technology and the skills that children need to be taught in the modern world.
This is the view of Steve Kirkpatrick, as expressed in an article called The future of ICT in the curriculum? on his excellent Teaching With Technology blog. I have a lot of respect for Mr Kp, as he styles himself, so I went back to basics and had a look at the 1999 Programme of Study, and its updated online version (primary and secondary – Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4).
Sorry, Steve, I have to completely disagree with you. It may not be all flashing lights, so to speak, but that is precisely the point. The Programme of Study, and its associated Level Descriptions, were written in a deliberately technology-free way in order to future-proof it. Indeed, one could argue that the weakest parts are the examples. Even the updated online version, with its example of “multimedia” (as compared with the original “sound” and “graphics”) is starting to curl at the edges as new technology like virtual worlds and, more recently, augmented reality have stumbled into the educational spotlight.
Steve goes on to say:
The problem is that the the ICT curriculum needs to be developed from the ground up and not from the top down.
That’s no problem. The ICT Programme of Study is “vague” enough for any creative bunch of teachers to invent their own ICT curriculum and make it match the Programme of Study. For example, read my Delegation Case Study for information on how I and a group of ICT teachers went about this around 12 years ago. The scheme of work we used, and adapted to our own purposes, not only satisfied the then existing Programme of Study for ICT, it also matched the 1999 rewrite -- and could still be used, with a bit of tweaking, obviously, today. My point is that I have always seen the ICT Programme of Study as enabling rather than restricting.
Can we as educators develop a skill based ICT curriculum that is relevant and low cost that will deliver for future learners?
Skills-based? Aaaaargh!! What happens when the skills become completely irrelevant (like in about a year, if that)? The only viable curriculum, in my opinion, is one which takes a problem-solving approach, and in which the relevant skills are learnt as needed.
Where do you stand on these issues?