Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Secondary ICT - Michael Gove at BETT 2012

Well, Moses has descended and we have listened; the problem is what does he mean? We have the commandments, “Thou shall honour thy computing”, “Thou shall not worship false idols such as IT or even ICT”. We might like these commandments, but how do we make a religion from them?

Michael Gove’s speech to BETT is the most direction changing speech I can recall in educational policy for over 30 years, but making the changes he sees as necessary is akin to avoiding the nasty consequences of an economic collapse in the eurozone: in both cases complex structures need to be broken up and new systems put in place, but all of the intermediates between the old system and the new need to function all of the time. Added to that problem, we have in both cases, it seems to me, a major disincentive to making changes happen in the form of human selfishness.

We must have recognised the problem years ago; how was it possible to timetable a double qualification in the same slot as a single science GCSE? The two were not compatible in intellectual demand. The problem was even more obvious at A level; Computing required much greater mental processing and as a consequence delivered lower attainment results than ICT. Gove’s view seems at the very least encouraging; he must have prepared himself for the smack of poorer results following a move away from cosy word processing with a touch of design and the disapplying of the ICT program is heroic. It’s not often that politicians show courage in adherence to ideals which are intended to benefit those with little political clout and in the same process risk disruption and numerically less flattering exam results.

Freedom at last to make choices?
What are we to make of the ideas of freedom? How can we make use of this opportunity to design courses which suit the needs and abilities of the youngsters in our classes? This seems to me to be a remarkable opportunity, somewhat after the style of “Mode 3 CSE” which offered the scope for teachers to be creative in the delivery of ideas within a framework of curricular axioms. Teaching can be rewarding in the cut and thrust of the classroom, there is no doubt in that, but designing the pathway to knowledge, rather than marching to someone else’s map, is of equal merit.

Seamless change may well require that all parts, curriculum, assessment, perception of the value of awards, need to function all of the time. Let’s hope that change will not be a result of evolution, where we are stuck with inheriting the results of previous design lash-ups and the only hope is waiting for the cull of Natural Selection.

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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