I received a very nice review from Jacqui Wilson, a classroom teacher in Tasmania. Is a book about what made ICT boring still relevant if the focus is on Computing? Well I think so, because the issues I highlighted with respect to ICT are in danger of arising again with respect to Computing. Anyway, read what Jacqui says about the book.
Why does everything have to be so interesting all the time? Here is my attempt to balance the scales by producing something incredibly boring.
No, not a riddle, but a question which came to mind on reading Eric Juli’s second comment on my post Rules of Engagement.
This is the gist of the question posed by the Royal Society, which, as promised in a previous article, has just launched a call for evidence.
The way any activity starts, ie your first few seconds’ experience of it, sets the tone for the rest of the period in question. What does this imply for the start of an ICT lesson?
#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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