Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Shock! Horror! Could Mr. Gove be RIGHT?

Gove
What a lovely smile...
Well, yes he could - much as it pains me to say so. In his (heavily trailed) speech at BETT today, Gove said "Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch."
I blogged about this last year when I was surprised at how few secondary ICT departments were using Web 2.0 tools. I read the sentence above to my ICT classes today and they were delighted - we're currently programming Shoot 'em Down arcade games using ... Scratch. I also gave them a Google Apps Form to complete (anonymously) which asked their feelings about some of the issues arising from Gove's speech. Thankfully most of them enjoy ICT, think I'm excited by my "subject",  and to reckon we're doing a decent job at preparing them for "this new world". 
I really don't think ICT is a subject - it's sets of tool and skills but the only content is almost entirely computer science i.e. mainly programming. All other content comes from other areas of the curriculum. I steal a fair bit of time to teach media in there too, mainly because I think it's wrong that such an important area should be neglected. And neglected it would be if the National Curriculum were followed to the letter. 
When first appointed I asked our Head of Maths if she liked spreadsheets. “Like?” she replied “ I love them”. “You teach them then” I replied “because they bore me rigid and I teach them really badly”. So does this mean I believe ICT should not be taught as a separate entity. Well yes, ideally ICT should be almost entirely embedded in the wider curriculum but realistically I also know that it is extremely difficult for anyone to stay abreast of developments - let alone non-specialists. As an ICT trainer I was often (silently) amazed at some teachers’ level of ignorance. So, once again I fear Mr. Gove is probably right - leave ICT as a compulsory whilst withdrawing the compulsion to follow a National Curriculum which is , and probably always would be, hopelessly out of date.
As to his concept of an open-source curriculum - seeking advice and support from industry and universities - without MIT, Scratch would still just be the glitter on a geek’s spectacles.

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