Monday, 10 December 2012

Reforming the ICT Curriculum - Coercion or cooperation?

Following the Reformation a number of people found Good King Henry’s neck supports were uncomfortable - fortunately this turned out to be only a temporary problem for those afflicted.  It appears that changes following Gove’s January speech to BETT are likely to be somewhat kinder towards the teaching force, although the intention is to change the direction of travel, in this case from ICT (boo!) to the Nirvana of Computer Science.  A well intentioned move made not before time, but these columns have speculated on the two major problems to be solved before necessary improvements in the IT/Computing curriculum can be used to effect; these being teacher training and arranging a suitable bandwidth in the new curriculum to cater for pupil-all-comers.  It looks as if progress is being made, certainly the problem is recognised and proposals advanced for solutions to both problems.

In the case of Teacher Training, the press notice updated 22nd October:

This reports that the intention is to provide annually around 50 scholarship programs at £20,000 each available to top graduates.  The training programs are set up by the British Computer Society (BCS), supported by Microsoft, Facebook, BT and IBM.  Graduates with at least a 2.1 will be eligible to apply for the one of these scholarships.  These graduates will have, in addition to “exceptional subject knowledge and enthusiasm for the study of Computer Science”, will also have an “outstanding potential to teach”.  The relationship between these students and the BCS will continue into their careers; it’s interesting to speculate on what is intended by this: are we talking about feedback for the next tranche of students, ideas for lesson plans or something more radical such as career advice and assisted professional development?
In addition to the BCS students, around 500 teachers are to be trained through a “Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence”.  This grandiose title relates to a scheme to train up to around 500 teachers, so it could be one lucky individual I suppose, anyway these missionaries with some knowledge of ICT are to be trained to “better teach Computer Science”.  There is an information pack from the BCS which summarises much of this with further useful links:

It seems a worthy effort that might work, but I have never been able to pick someone with outstanding potential to teach without seeing them in action and then in an environment where they can show their potential.  Teachers so often prosper in their natural habitat (and not necessarily an academic temple) else the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.  Probably others will disagree and have more success at picking winners.

In the next blog we’ll look at proposals which impact directly on those taught.

John Giles

John Giles is an educational consultant and author specialising in IT and computing. He works closely with exam boards, and has written syllabuses and exam papers.

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