ICT: An embedded specialism?

16 January 2012

One of the threads that is emerging, as the curriculum for ICT and Computer Science is revamped, is the multiple natures of the uses of digital technologies for learning. There are the existing ICT curriculum – very broad – specialist aspects of programming, algorithmic thinking, systems design. There is creative media, there’s games-based learning. The list is long and is a different list is drawn up by each person who considers it.

I think a useful approach to this is to consider which uses of digital technology might be embedded elsewhere in the curriculum. When the National curriculum was first drawn up in England in 1988 ICT/IT did not exist. It was part of technology. Government announcements seem to be moving back to ‘technology’ as the catch all term. Indeed the consultation announced by Naace and ALT for Dfe has the URL schoolstech.org.uk. This view has ICT/IT embedded in technology. It didn’t work, of course, as much of the curriculum of ICT/IT was at odds with the rest of the subject and in 1995 it was split out leaving ‘Design and technology’. But there seems, to me, to be some merit in looking at how parts of ICT/IT might be aligned with other subjects. And one is reminded that Maths and Computing were conjoined in schools specialism.

So if the creative media aspects were aligned with English and taught by English and ICT specialists would this give greater ‘rigour’ to the subject? Not here that I do not advocate the removal of the ICT specialists but that they work in other subjects. Perhaps the rigid structure of ICT-as-subject with the concomitant few-teachers-teaching-all-pupils and atomised schemes of work has led to the poor perception of the subject. Maybe rich, demanding digital technology in other subjects could help to redress that. But only if it was properly embedded. The NC once had statements that said that all subjects had responsibility for ICT. But it was never ‘enforced’ and eventually it was removed. We shouldn’t make that mistake again.

Advertisements

Unsatisfactory FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE

14 January 2012

Oh the tyranny of the sub editor. Journalist writes article, sub editor fits headline to it. Soundbite, provocation, something to fit the space. All of these considerations means that, often, headlines distort the true meaning of the article or report.

Take the Guardian’s “ICT lessons in schools are ‘highly unsatisfactory’, says Royal Society“. Gloom mongering. We know of course that the overwhelming majority are not. Even Ofsted agree. Even if not as many are reported as excellent as might be. The article actually says:

“The current delivery of computing education in many UK schools is highly unsatisfactory,” the scientists, who include Nobel prize winner Paul Nurse, argue. “We appear to have succeeded in making many people comfortable with using the technology that we find around us, but this seems to have been at the expense of failing to provide a deeper understanding of the rigorous academic subject of computer science.”

It’s computer education lessons that are unsatisfactory, failing to provide deep understanding of computer science. Well that’s not surprising, the ICT curriculum wasn’t intended to do that alone. There are many excellent lessons in ICT, digital literacy, creative media that do not address the discipline of computer science. That is perfectly acceptable. It does not make them, per se, unsatisfactory.


…and what is so boring and damaging anyway?

11 January 2012

Here are the ‘key processes’ in the National Curriculum  for ICT at KS3. Can you spot the boredom and damage? What would you say was not essential to learning in a digital age?

2.1 Finding information

Pupils should be able to:
a. consider systematically the information needed to solve a problem, complete a task or answer a question, and explore how it will be used
b. use and refine search methods to obtain information that is well matched to purpose, by selecting appropriate sources
c. collect and enter quantitative and qualitative information, checking its accuracy
d. analyse and evaluate information, judging its value, accuracy, plausibility and bias.

2.2 Developing ideas

Pupils should be able to:
a. select and use ICT tools and techniques appropriately, safely and efficiently
b. solve problems by developing, exploring and structuring information, and deriving new information for a particular purpose
c. test predictions and discover patterns and relationships, exploring, evaluating and developing models by changing their rules and values
d. design information systems and suggest improvements to existing systems
e. use ICT to make things happen by planning, testing and modifying a sequence of instructions, recognising where a group of instructions needs repeating, and automating frequently used processes by constructing efficient procedures that are fit for purpose
f. bring together, draft and refine information, including through the combination of text, sound and image.

2.3 Communicating information

Pupils should be able to:
a. use a range of ICT tools to present information in forms that are fit for purpose, meet audience needs and suit the content
b. communicate and exchange information (including digital communication) effectively, safely and responsibly
c. use technical terms appropriately and correctly.

2.4 Evaluating

Pupils should be able to:
a. review, modify and evaluate work as it progresses, reflecting critically and using feedback
b. reflect on their own and others’ uses of ICT to help them develop and improve their ideas and the quality of their work
c. reflect on what they have learnt and use these insights to improve future work.

What is boring is the way it is taught when teachers are forced, by assessment systems, to do tedious tasks.


In out, in out, shake it all about

11 January 2012

So the Gove press release on ICT is released by the Dept for Education. ICT is condemned as boring and harmful. The programme of study is to be scrapped (it sounds like we need Arnold Schwarzenegger to blitz it away).

This is why we are withdrawing [ICT] from September [2012]. Technology in schools will no longer be micro-managed by Whitehall. By withdrawing the Programme of Study, we’re giving teachers freedom over what and how to teach, revolutionising ICT as we know it.

But then the press release says:

ICT will remain a compulsory part of the National Curriculum, pending the National Curriculum review.

How can the PoS be scrapped and it remain in the NC. The NC is the PoS...


Rhizomatic Education

31 October 2008

In this article Cormier discusses the ways in which the curriculum may need to change to reflect the new ways in which knowledge is constructed – through networks and communities of learners, as opposed to the traditional model of content transmitted by teachers. There is one reference to assessment where Cormier looks at how the traditional assessment is against that content.

To quote the article

“Information is the foundation of knowledge. The information in any given field consists of facts and figures, such as may be found in the technical reference manuals of learning; in a nonrhizomatic model, individual experts translate information into knowledge through the application of checks and balances involving peer review and rigorous assessment against a preexisting body of knowledge. The peers and experts are themselves vetted through a similar sanctioning process that is the purview, largely, of degree-granting institutions. This process carries the prestige of a thousand-year history, and the canon of what has traditionally been considered knowledge is grounded in this historicity as a self-referential set of comparative valuations that ensure the growth of knowledge by incremental, verified, and institutionally authorized steps. In this model, the experts are the arbiters of the canon. The expert translation of data into verified knowledge is the central process guiding traditional curriculum development.”

The other side of the coin is not discussed but I suspect that in the new ‘rhizomatic’ (and I’m no biologist so the metaphor is lost on me) model has peer and expert assessment. It’s the old thing about how do we know something is good – often because it is valued by those who need to use it (predictive validity as per the discussion at Cambridge – value <=> validity).

Linked from ERN (George Siemens)

Cormier, D (2008) Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum in Innovate, 4, 5, July 2008 [online] available at http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=550&action=article accessed 31/10/08


Sir Mike Tomlinson lecture

22 October 2008

Sir Mike Tomlinson, chair of the working group on 14-19 reform that led to the 2003 Tomlinson Report, came to NTU today to give the RSA Shipley Lecture. This year the lecture was also a memorial to former NTU and RSA stalwart Anne Bloomfield. The subject, dear to her heart and to Sir Mike’s, was “Vocational education should be a rounded education“.

With the backdrop of the history of attempted introductions of vocational education (the 1944 Butler Education Act with its tripartite system, TVEI, GNVQs, Curriculum 2000 and Diplomas), Tomlinson argued for the move away from debates about ‘parity of esteem’ towards a view of the ‘credibility and value’ of qualifications. Echoes here of the value and validity arguments of Monday’s seminar at Cambridge.

It was also notable that the lecture included issues of how ‘true’ vocational education must have

  • relevance to 16-year olds (face validity),
  • a knowledge base that is used in, and applied to, occupational areas – however broadly drawn (validty determined by use, not by the test itself)
  • a theoretical content balanced with sector-based skills (content validity)

Again this echoes with Monday. Another thread running through was the role of assessment (systems) in undermining the vocational educational initiatives – TVEI assessment becoming ‘traditional’, GNVQ assessment being changed to equate to GCSE/A level, key skills being decoupled from GNVQs, Curriculum 2000’s insistence on equal numbers of units per qualification with a convergence of assessment types.

Also mentioned, although not in the same sense of ‘undermining’ was the persistence of the BTEC model and the way that NVQs were never envisaged to be other than accreditation mechanisms for on the job training.

The BTEC model of occupational credibility and general education was the model that was paramount in the description of vocational education with the caveat ‘what is general education’?

Throughout I was wondering where ICT fits into all this. Never mentioned as a ‘subject’ nor even as a ‘skill’ it was conspicuous by its absence. It is, of course, present in the specialised diplomas and as a functional skill although the former may be bedevilled by the wide diversity of the sector it is serving, I fear.

Tomlinson was upbeat about the Diplomas but focused especially on the need to get a true progression from level 1 through to 3. The custom of level 1 being what you get if you fail level 2 (GCSE grades D-G rather than A*-C) must not be repeated he urged. Also the need to get level 2 threshold systems so that learners who do not reach that threshold at , I would say the magical (and arbitrary, age of 16 could do so by subsequent credit points accumulation – rather than ‘repeating GCSEs’, a model that doesn’t serve well, he argued.

Another hour of useful insights.


Futurelab (2006) Social software and learning

20 July 2007

I hadn’t come across this paper until today…

To quote from the executive summary…

“This paper is focused on exploring the inter-relationship between two key trends in the field of educational technologies. In the educational arena, we are increasingly witnessing a change in the view of what education is for, with a growing emphasis on the need to support young people not only to acquire knowledge and information, but to develop the resources and skills necessary to engage with social and technical change, and to continue learning throughout the rest of their lives. In the technological arena, we are witnessing the rapid proliferation of technologies which are less about ‘narrowcasting’ to individuals, than the creation of communities and resources in which individuals come together to learn, collaborate and build knowledge (social software). It is the intersection of these two trends which, we believe, offers significant potential for the development of new approaches to education. ”

These new approaches include those encapsulated in these quotes

“Today, the use of social software in education is still in its infancy and many actions will be required across policy, practice and developer communities before it becomes widespread and effective. From a policy perspective, we need to encourage the evolution of the National Curriculum to one which takes account of new relationships with knowledge, and we need to develop assessment practices which respond to new approaches to learning and new competencies we expect learners to develop.

and

“A rigid curriculum inhibits the development of the knowledge and skills that may be useful in the 21st century. If we are to promote the benefits of problem solving and collaboration then they need to be validated and legitimated by the assessment system. This is the greatest challenge for education policy.

There is some sort of mapping in my mind between the two trends identified in the first paragraph and the two aspects of my research.

The report has a change in the purpose of education and its interface with the change in technologies. I have the two views of ICT/assessment of ICT, (and maybe also views of the purpose of ICT in education). Putting these four onto a diagram I see that two are to do with system, theories etc and two are to do with learners, users, practice.

futurelabandme1.gif