[ubuntu-uk] BBC Click

Paul Tansom paul at aptanet.com
Mon Jun 6 22:41:27 UTC 2011

** J Fernyhough <j.fernyhough at gmail.com> [2011-06-06 19:22]:
> 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 think I'm going to disagree here. ICT is a tool that is cross curricular, and
as such (and given that it is so significant and ubiquitous) deserves special
attention. To be slightly flippant, you don't expect a history teacher to teach
English because it is required to read the books ;) That said, some packages
are more specific, so I would expect an art teacher to have a solid
understanding of graphics packages in order to teach the use of that particular
artistic tool just as much as charcoal, watercolour or clay - the level of the
study may dictate whether it is a single teacher or (perhaps subject to size of
school as well) there are several with differing specialisms within the subject
area. What is missing with ICT is the depth of study, and I think that a good
chunk of what is taught as ICT is more akin to business studies.

> >> 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?

See above!

> >> 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
> teaching).

Whilst the majority may not care how a car works, they are at least taught the
principles and then some go on to study further. The curriculum defines what
knowledge is required, and it is the job of the teacher to make it interesting.

> >> 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.

A reasonable part of the shortage of maths and science teachers is the
attraction of other jobs that require those skills and pay better, coupled
perhaps with the fact that the nature of the disciplines lead to a smaller
percentage of those following it being interested in standing in front of a
class teaching it (I may be generalising or stereotyping here!). With ICT you
have the added disincentive that the curriculum does not appear to cover much
that people truly interested in the subject consider important or interesting,
borne out by the fact that industry is crying out for skills that are not
being taught.

> > 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"?

Chicken and egg I suspect here. When I was at school it was all about the
history of computers, logic and programming, and although these days I would
expect the balance to change and other areas to be brought in, it would be nice
to have the option to study these areas, along with more modern concepts like
networking and systems administration. Although some of this is covered, there
seems to be a huge gap between primary and further education that does not
allow an interest to develop and be followed through.

** end quote [J Fernyhough]

All of this is of particular interest to me, and I'm hoping to be able to
devote more time to it, since not only do I have two sons of primary school
age, but I am a school governor. A good chunk of the past year my governing
duties have been focused on recruiting a new head teacher (no easy task when
you are already a two in a row outstanding Ofsted school!).

I may be spoilt by the school I have links with, but I can honestly say that a
'change in mindset' is not what is required on the part of teachers. Those that
I have dealings with are more than willing to learn new skills to help improve
the education they provide. The problem is with the curriculum itself, as that
has to be covered first in order to both meet the requirements that schools are
judged against and provide the pupils with the best chance of getting those
pieces of paper that they will be initially judged against to get into higher
education or their foot on the first rung of the employment ladder. If ICT is
not required in the correct form by the curriculum then it will only be covered
if there is time to broaden the scope, and then only if the teacher has the
skills and interest to choose that as being of value and within there scope.

Paul Tansom | Aptanet Ltd. | http://www.aptanet.com/ | 023 9238 0001
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