With the changes to the place of ICT in the curriculum announced by the Department for Education this week the future is ‘exciting’ for ICT teachers. Being able to teach “how and what they like” is the promise. With the steer that Computer Science is the new black. But what might that future really be like?
Well I suppose it depends on how ‘ICT teacher’ is defined. There seems, to me, to be at least three categories of such teacher (and I am referring here to secondary schools). Each have different futures as far as I can see. All ‘exciting’ in their different ways. ‘Exciting’ as in mountaineering.
– The specialist teachers of ICT whose background is in Computer Science. Such teachers will probably have qualified as ICT teachers if they qualifed in the last 10 years or so (before that ICT was not a subject of initial teacher education). Such teachers will probably be the most genuinely excited. They will be able to go back to teaching Computer Science, to introduce it to more students. They will need some CPD, will probably be part of the Computing at Schools association and will benefit from what it, and associated universities, will offer.
– The specialist teachers of ICT whose background is not in Computer Science. These are the majority of those who qualified in the last 10 years. They will have backgrounds in IT-related disciplines with degrees such as Business and IT. They will be adept at teaching that which has been slammed as ‘boring’ and ‘harmful’. It isn’t of course. Any subject can be made boring and harm students by denying them interesting learning. That’s down to the teachers, not the subject. These teachers will probably be the least excited and the most fearful. They will not find a transition to teaching Computer Science easy on the whole. My hope for this group is that they will be liberated from restricted assessment systems – every student being entered for bloated ICT qualifications with minimal timetabled lessons – and be able to help develop digital literacy and understanding across the school (while retaining some specialism ICT courses for those students who want that specialism). They’ll also be liberated from being responsible for assessing every student. I still shiver at the sight of a lone ICT specialist in a school having to write reports for over 300 students in a year group. Matthew who?
– The non-specialist teachers of ICT. Often caricatured as hapless innocents, reluctantly being forced to teach a subject against their will. While this may be true in some cases this group also consists of enthusiastic, engaging teachers with other subject specialist ‘labels’ who contribute to students’ learning with technology. The maths teacher who is adept at spreadsheets for developing algebraic understanding, the English teacher using technology to develop awareness of journalistic genres, the historian using technology for role play, webquests, the design teacher using computers for product design etc etc. These folk will also be liberated from having to contribute to teaching every student some arcane ICT specification to developing engaging activities around their own specialism.
All of this will need CPD. All will need vision for new curricula. Who will provide all of this is a moot point but we are lucky in this country to have a well established subject association in Naace, a vibrant new association in Computing at School and a specialist initial teacher education association in ITTE. Together with HE and industry we surely can use this opportunity to provide a creative, relevant future for our students. And I use creative and relevant deliberately – these were the words that emerged from my own PhD research… of which more soon.