[ubuntu-uk] BBC Click

J Fernyhough j.fernyhough at gmail.com
Mon Jun 6 18:20:27 UTC 2011

I agree with much of what you say - I'm going to respond inline for
the discussion.

On 6 June 2011 18:42, Avi Greenbury <lists at avi.co> wrote:
> J Fernyhough wrote:
>> Firstly, the vast majority of teachers don't have the skills of
>> knowledge to be able to teach anything other than office skills
> This is precisely what's *wanted* in order that IT teachers can teach
> IT. At the moment, the IT taught in school is an introduction to using
> computers in the other subjects - processing statistics in a
> spreadsheet, writing essays in a word processor, editing images, that
> sort of thing.
> What needs to happen before IT can possibly be expected to start
> teaching IT is for these basic skills to be taught in the same places
> as the non-computer-related basic skills. Word processors should be
> covered in English lessons, spreadsheets in maths or a science, image
> processing in art, search engines in history and that sort of thing.

Yes, and yes. And in many instances this is exactly what happens, and
exactly why a school might not value ICT as a discrete subject. If the
skills are being taught cross-curricular, then why do we need IT
lessons and IT teachers? If IT teachers are teaching what's being
taught by other staff, why do they need specific skills?

However, for this to happen what would be required is an increase in
basic IT skills of all teachers, and that would require a change in
their mindset.

I've read a lot about project-based (or thematic) learning, especially
in charter schools in California and New York. This has promise, but
getting past the current teaching mindset is nigh-on impossible.

> The problem here is that the curriculum is not really about anything in
> particular except being a curriculum. We can't work out whether school
> is about learning for learning's sake, preparing students for work,
> preparing students for life in general or something else entirely. It
> still feels heavily geared towards staffing the governance of
> colonies...
> A larger problem is that a lack of understanding of computers is a
> complete non-issue. Many people genuinely believe it is more important
> to know the date of VE day than what a firewall does.

Agreed. It's a bit pants.

>> When one particular example won't touch on image editing (despite it
>> being in the scheme of work) because they'd have to learn how to use
>> Photoshop Elements what hope is there of getting them to do any sort
>> of programming?
> Why should an IT teacher be teaching art anyway?

I would respond that ICT is a convergence subject. It's not just about
computers and how they work. Why teach about podcasting
(Music/Media/English), logo design (Graphics, Art) or animation (Art,
Drama), or website design (Media, Graphics), or spreadsheet formulae
(Maths, Business/Economics), or data analysis (Maths, Science), or...

The point of the image editing was faked photos (think Iran missile
launch photo from a few months back). Again, though, this is about
information bias and validity - and this again could be taught in
pretty much every other subject.

>> Secondly, the majority of children don't care about how a computer
>> works (any more than they care how a car works)
> I suspect they're not overly bothered about trigonometry or the
> differences between plant cells and animal cells. The point of a
> curriculum isn't to be interesting.

No, but it helps, and it should normally provide some context. It
helps most, though, when the teacher is interested in the curriculum
(I should highlight that this is possibly the most important thing in

>> Essentially, it comes down to the fact that teaching difficult stuff
>> is difficult, and most teachers aren't up to it.
> This is untrue in many fields that aren't IT. We seem to manage to
> provide children with science and maths and $difficultSubject teachers

While I accept your point, there's a shortage of Maths and Science
teachers. Recruitment of Maths teachers is incredibly difficult, e.g.
school having to offer extra incentives.

> The problem is that the IT curriculum is more about teaching kids how
> to do other subjects with computers than it is about computers.

To teach about computers would require teachers who know about and are
interested in computers - but then again, what is "computers"?

> It's roughly akin to using English literature lessons to teach
> students the meanings of their History course texts.

That's a cross-curricular approach, and what you were after in the
first paragraph. ;)

> --
> Avi.


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