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Teachers worry about lack of training as Gove redraws ICT education

Teachers worry about lack of training as Gove redraws ICT education

Will a focus on programming mean useful ICT skills currently taught in schools will be thrown out?

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Although the IT industry broadly welcomed education minister Michael Gove's announcement today of a fundamental overhaul in the way ICT is taught in schools, those at the 'chalkface' were much more wary.

Teachers whom Computerworld UK spoke to today at education technology show BETT and via email, have expressed concern about the training needed to make Gove's proposals a success.

"It's [Gove's proposals] really good but the one thing missing is training for teachers," said Mark Hellen, a lecturer responsible for ICT in the educational studies department at Goldsmiths' College, London.

"Computing in schools is going to be expensive and it means training teachers to do it."

Chi Onwurah, shadow minister for innovation and science, agreed: "I welcome the proposals to improve the quality and extent of such an important subject as computer science in classrooms, but have concerns that resources and the teachers need to be there and qualified in order to make these policies work."

At ICT coordinator Ian Addison's primary school, St John the Baptist, in Hampshire, for example, he said he is the only teacher who is happy to use games design as a teaching tool.

"Computing is not something that teachers do. It needs to be based on simple enough software that we can use. Teachers (sometimes) find it hard to keep up."

Teachers need to understand the subjects they are teaching in depth, and not be simply one step ahead of their students. "It's about having the confidence to carry on when things go wrong," he said.

Teachers were also concerned about the useful parts of the existing ICT curriculum that could be lost as a result of a refocus on programming.

Lynn Roberts, a lecturer at the Institute of Education who trains primary school teachers, said: "I'm really interested that there's going to be a shift to computer science, but I'm also aware we will lose a whole strand of new media literacy [for example teaching children how to make their own online videos]. Where does it fit in the curriculum? We need to make sure that it doesn't drop off the agenda."

John Botham, a former head teacher and now education director at network solution provider D-Link, agreed: "As a teacher, I would be much more interested in how people use ICT and what they use it for. I think we should be teaching skills they're [children] going to use in the workplace."

Meanwhile, Robert Berry, director of ICT at Royal Grammar School, Worcester, said that there was little point in changing the ICT curriculum unless students are also encouraged to take up the new computer science-focused courses.

"Mr Gove needs to consider in the current climate of league tables that pupils, parents, as well as, sadly, teachers and schools will be only too aware of the relative difficulty of some courses (for example, computing) for example, in contrast to geography.

"Students will vote with their feet, and in many cases, with an eagle eye on their UCAS form, will be very keen to ensure as many A* grades as possible, irrelevant of the subjects."

He added: "I suggest we need to provide not just ICT courses, or just computing courses, but a range of high quality courses, and allow young people to realise their talents. In many cases, an improvement in basic numeracy and literacy will be far more beneficial to lots of young people than the ability to write a 'mobile app'."

Read Michael Gove's education and ICT speech in full.

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  • oppaug As undergraduate student yet to complete next year with BEd Information Technology I am trying to design a curriculum model that would teach teachertrainees six semestersthe first two betheoretical workthe second two practical workand the last two field practiceI think this would help teachers to beversatile in ICT before the leave school for posting to teach basic schoolsopplettersyahoocom
  • Leia Fee I disagree that coding at the level being discussed is fundamentally difficult With the tools available its not a massive step up from the flow control many primary schools already do with floor robots Were talking about visual editors like Scratch and Alice here - not hand coding in C or goodness knows what
  • Leia Fee Its the teaching as well as the technologies of courseTake Powerpoint which is usually given at the example Why ICT education is broken Taught well it teaches design communication techniques planning and summarising Taught badly it produces meaningless pap irrelevant to most jobsLikewise coding taught well teaches problem solving logical thinking planning and perseverance Taught badly it produces meaningless pap irrelevant to most jobsTheres a moral hereNot everyones going to use Powerpoint in their job Not everyones going to use coding in their job That doesnt mean the underpinning skills of design communication techniques planning summarising problem solving logical thinking planning and perseverance are unimportant
  • Sammy I am a massive supporter of scrapping the existing ICT syllabus for so many reasons However as is dawning on everyone the problem of introducing higher level cognitive skills difficult stuff if you are not in education generates a paradoxICT is not an optional subject so must be taken by all students whatever their ability This is why ICT is easy and conceptually trivial at best It is also why it is staffed by low skilled teachersFew students have or will be able to acquire the intellectual apparatus to code This presents the first problem The second problem is that ICT teachers cannot be trained en-masse to code Those that can already do those that cannot will be very hard to up-skill Where to start with training is just one of the problemsLogically and structurally a programming skill you are faced with provision of elite education opportunities I suggest high level computing work provided by centres of excellence where the able students are allowed to take classes would do the trickbtw in 1972 I was allowed to do just this
  • cyberdoyle With ubiquitous connectivity and the cloud there is no excuse not to be digitally literate You can google anything and find out how to do it The problem is that until everyone has a fit for purpose connection the brave new world wont happen After a hard days work the last thing students or teachers need is to have to sit twiddling thumbs while web pages load Until the internet just works and computers are simple work stations we are fighting a losing battle and will fall prey to providers wanting to provide consultation training and hefty invoices
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