Ideas for the computing curriculum: #1 Talk to the lamp post

ideaIn this series I’m going to be making some suggestions, putting out some ideas. These are based on presentations I’ve given. I can think of how these ideas, or their implications, might be applied in the classroom. However, I think it better if I stand back and let you do that part of the work!

There’s a really good chance that in some schools, or in some classes, the computing curriculum will be just as boring as the old ICT curriculum was accused of being. I think the basic starting point for any scheme of work should be a simple proposition: using technology is mostly enjoyable. It can also be exciting. Therefore, learning about technology should be equally enjoyable and exciting. If it isn’t, something is wrong.

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7 Criteria for evaluating a computing scheme of work

curriculum perspectivesNow that it’s certain that here in England we will have a computing curriculum to follow in September 2014, many people are going to be writing schemes of work. Whether you are a producer or a consumer in this regard, I think you will find the following evaluation criteria useful.
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C is for … Curriculum

healthy soupThere 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.

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Computer Science courses should be left to the experts: teachers

Michael Gove at Chantry High SchoolIt’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.

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Is the ICT Curriculum Fit for Purpose?

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.

Steve says:

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?