Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Secondary ICT - How to deliver ICT projects

In the last blog I offered a case for using less control in the classroom. I wasn’t thinking of starry-eyed notions of freedom associated with the educational elites of yore, where students select the subject they need from a pick and mix open timetable. My point was restricted to the “ownership” of ICT projects. The student is often engaged by the ICT project for a number of sessions. Unlike in science, where tipping the solution down the drain rather than the precipitate is an inconvenient climax to a Chemistry lesson, in ICT the “solution” is a resolution of a problem or need and is often the culmination of weeks of work. Students should and do, feel it is their own project.  If they have worked “sir’s recipe” to an acceptable end-point, it is likely that have a very good project; how this reflects their independent working, insight, development of transferable skills, the sheer human aspect of creativity, is questionable. Quite rightly, exam boards are increasing astute in figuring out that the “cook-book” has been used.
Fitting it together

OK, I have made my case, how to deliver? A starting point is the project: “Old Banger Motors have a problem in managing accounts for servicing and repairs to customers’ vehicles... blah, blah”. There is a problem to this approach too, in that with limited skills and experience it is unlikely that the student will be able to design a sophisticated solution to the problem, so that while projects are probably the road to travel, the student will need to set off knowing how to use the sat nav and widen his awareness in the souks of the caravanserais of the journey. Initial teacher defined and led sessions followed by intense skill acquisition once the project starts could be the method of choice. These sessions need to be focussed on skills pertinent to the project but distanced by not being part of the scenario of the project. For example, in the above scenario it is likely that spreadsheet functions such as ROUND and COUNTIF are expected to be used. At a suitable point some distance into the project, but before the functions are relevant to the project, the training session could be delivered. The student is free to incorporate these into the original design or not. What won’t work is relying on the “stumble upon” option as means of differentiation; awareness of what is available and some examples of how the functions, logical operators or whatever can be used in a clearly defined exercise is what is needed. 

There is more on offer here, not all of it positive: those less able or motivated may not be as well supported, however you may feel that the motivated, determined and able students deserve their day in the sun.

John Giles
John has taught in various secondary schools for over 30 years, including roles as ICT coordinator and Head of ICT. He is also an established author and has worked as an examiner and moderator for a number of exam boards.

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