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John Spencer

Dr John Spencer began his teaching career in 1981 armed with a Sinclair ZX81, thereby demonstrating two things at once: Firstly he was in at the very start of ICT in the classroom and secondly he is a sucker for duff technology. Thereafter he taught joining a start-up open source company as their Head of Education in 2002. Now John is bringing his iconoclastic disposition and tendency to throw a spanner in the works to blogging.

The Windows School Network...

May you be cursed forever

Article comments

The Royal Society is conducting a review about ICT and Computing in schools and they are due to report back end of 2011. They are really concerned about the future of computing at University level, or rather the lack of it. Put simply the take up in schools and colleges for ICT and Computing is in free fall.

I will pre-empt their findings:

1) ICT is insufferably trite and dull focusing on low level white collar workplace tasks with a smattering of ICT in society twaddle and a large dollop of contrived coursework. Able students don’t want to do it and Universities feel likewise.

2) Computing at A Level is more challenging, though almost devoid of fundamental principles it thus constantly struggles to “keep up to date” with the latest technology. Universities don’t want this subject either.

3) Most teachers of either subject know little or nothing about computers other than how to use a few applications, usually the MS Office suite.

Enough said.

Q: How did this state of affairs come about?

A: The Windows Network

I was sent a link today from a company called Aerohive that claimed teachers walked a mile a day in the classroom sorting out computer and network connectivity issues, yep that’s about right. They went on unfortunately to really wind me up by pitching to “leave teachers free to teach and technicians to do the technical work”...aaargh!!

This is the problem not the solution you dolts, but maybe it’ll need a little explaining.

Concurrently I am engaged with a periodic habit of mine which amounts to trying to bait the school professional network technicians who lurk on Edugeek’s forums. They make me really cross for it is they that maintain, defend, protect and develop the school Windows Network which is probably the worst thing that has happened to high quality teaching, ever.

I will explain.

High quality teaching and learning requires both teachers and learners to be able to explore, experiment, take risks and develop things.

It will be obvious to anyone who has taught ICT or Computing in schools in the last ten years that the school network does not allow any of the above. Therefore within it’s embrace the very best cannot thrive. Teachers are infantilised and students are bored witless. The Royal Society will, I am sure, gather the evidence for this in a sound way.

Pity the school sys-admin knows that his or her network is fragile and contains legally sensitive data so would be insane to encourage open access, and general fiddling by teachers and students. He or she is actually standing in the way of excellence by just doing their job.

The constraints of the conventional network have no place in good education and a new model is required.

It really was better in the days of the BBC Master PC.


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