to worry about ICT teaching in schools

(60 Posts)
ReallyTired Thu 03-Jan-13 20:07:36

My eleven year old son has been having great fun with a raspberry pi. He has played with Scratch and is learning Python. He is trying to get the raspberry pi to work with temperature sensor.

Going round secondary schools I got the impression that ICT curriculum in secondary schools will have very little to excite him. I have worked with ICT teachers who know less than my son.

Am I unreasonable to worry that ICT teaching in secondary schools is little more than learning Microsoft Word?

pickledsiblings Thu 03-Jan-13 20:46:33

Have you heard of this organisation OP - CAS? They have written a curriculum for schools to avail of. Perhaps send your DS into school armed with it smile.

Euphemia Thu 03-Jan-13 20:51:24

In my experience in primary, ICT equipment is really patchy. Some schools will have an ICT suite with one computer per child, others one between two. Some have PCs, some Macs. Some have a trolley of laptops to wheel from class to class. Some have one, two or three computers in each classroom; others have pods of six in a communal area.

It makes it very hard to plan a proper ICT programme, especially with councils cutting back on support and maintenance budgets.

Pilgit Thu 03-Jan-13 20:51:27

No YANBU. We are looking at primary schools for our DD at the moment and my programmer DH was horrified to see that basic cause and effect type programming is only introduced as a specialist topic in year 6 - he's expecting to have introduced our DD's to that by the age of 6 and have them doing a lot more by 11. When we were at school ICT was logo (anyone else remember that..? I was dreadful at it but better than just how to use the programmes.

Meglet Thu 03-Jan-13 20:51:52

Yanbu (partly because I heard about the guardian campaign and have been reading up on it).

When I was at school pretty much all we did was learn to change the font colours in Word.

I know bugger all about coding but I think I will get a Pi in a year or so and see what we can do with it. i could do circles and patterns on my Spectrum 48k when I was a kid.

IAmLouisWalsh Thu 03-Jan-13 20:52:41

Totally depends on the school, and on the course. BTEC ICT is very different to GCSE, for example.

bealos Thu 03-Jan-13 20:56:19

I've been working on some of the stuff behind the scenes on this. I started up Coding for Kids - a grassroots movement to support extra curricular activities around learning to code and have been part of meetings with Dept of Education looking at the new Computer Science GCSE curriculum - which is definitely a step forward. The challenge is training the teachers to be up to date on current technology and having links with the tech industry.

For primary schools, I think there's a real lack of basic knowledge around the benefits of learning what goes on 'behind the screen' and learning basic computer programming skills needs to start a whole lot earlier than GCSE.

Code Club has started up as a Year 5 and 6 after school club, pairing up schools with volunteers. Get your school involved in it!

OP - get your son involved in Young Rewired State if he's really keen.

YABU. ICT is about being computer literate. It's not training young people to be engineers. We have very low uptake in STEM sciences, and making computer science compulsory will just turn people off. Like maths and physics.

Just for comparison, when I did computer at school, it was about algorithms (eg bubble sort, merge sort), binary/hex numbers, floating point numbers, data structures, flowcharts. I really don't think it's relevant to most people's life. I don't believe the language you use, even if you use a programming language is important. Programming is really about problem solving (hence the teaching with flowcharts). Syntax is just a minor thing. If you (or your child) want to understand the difference I'm refering to, http://thedailywtf.com/ is great.

Btw, I don't believe we need more programmers. And it really isn't that well paid. Many left for the city. Even with the financial crisis, I can think of two in my team in the last couple of years.

"YABU. ICT is about being computer literate."

MS Office is hardly helping computer literacy.

In terms of usefulness they'd actually be better off teaching children computer maintenance (hardware AND software) seeing as we are now so reliant on computers.

PolkadotCircus Thu 03-Jan-13 21:07:06

One my dp earns a pretty healthy salary.Like all things you need to keep up to date with the new stuff as it comes out and keep at the top of your game.We live in Devon( not exactly the IT capital of the world)dp has never had a problem finding work down here even in this current climate and he's paid way above the average salary for down here.

He constantly keeps as eye out on jobs and there are consistently a high demand across the UK.One day he may have to do the city thing but surely in all sectors you can't sit still for too long.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 03-Jan-13 21:08:18

OLTT - I sort of agree with some of that - but while we may not need more 'programmers' as such, its surely a good thing if people are confident to write code to solve problems in whatever field they're in. The STEM types maybe are the ones who will be more likely to do it as a hobby or not see it as difficult - I don't think it should be tied to those subjects.

I don't think computer science should be compulsory but it should be available to those that want it.

GirlOutNumbered Thu 03-Jan-13 21:10:18

As an IT teacher, I was so pleased to see the reintroduction at our school of GCSE Computing. We had been forced to teach OCR Nationals as it meant the whole year cohort could get a GCSE equivalent, which sadly as we now is a knock on from the league tables (different argument)

Anyhoo, although I am pleased with this, I am worried that dropping ICT from the curriculum will leave some students not being able to complete basic tasks on a computer. GCSE Computing really is only for some of the more able students, coding is harder than people think and forcing all students to do it will turn some of computers for life.

ReallyTired Thu 03-Jan-13 21:15:42

My son has had mixed provision for ICT at primary. Last year his class was taught bt a student teacher who was an ex programmer.

I think there would be a lot to be said for teaching kids computer maintaince, although the days of building your own computer are long gone.

I feel that secondary schools need to differentiate ICT lessons. There is no point in teaching programming to someone who can't read.

Grimma yes I think my point is we shouldn't be so narrowly focussing on just computer science. There's a need for more people doing STEM subjects generally. By the way, I work for a very well known multinational and graduates only need a numerate degree to get into our graduate program. I know it's the same for that other very well known US multinational nearby. The skills that STEM subjects teach are fairly transferrable, at the graduate level at least.

Polka not sure what role your partner is in. It could vary from IT support to DBA! But believe it or not, we have more trouble hiring testers and system support than developers. I think programming is simply the most visible role.

GirlOutNumbered I am worried that dropping ICT from the curriculum will leave some students not being able to complete basic tasks on a computer. GCSE Computing really is only for some of the more able students, coding is harder than people think and forcing all students to do it will turn some of computers for life.

That's exactly what I'm worried about. By the way, I don't think we are more 'able'. If you have met the people I work with (including me), we are all fairly dysfunctional grin.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 03-Jan-13 21:30:53

>I feel that secondary schools need to differentiate ICT lessons. There is no point in teaching programming to someone who can't read.

Yes and no, depending what you mean - the best algorithm developer I know is very dyslexic. He thinks in maths and code more fluently than English.

GirlOutNumbered Thu 03-Jan-13 21:33:33

haha, yes I am certainly not 'more able'! In our school however, we are only going to offer it to certain students though. This is all to do with the new eBacc, so our students will be guided through 5 pathways. We have persuaded SLT that we also need to provide ICT and so they have told us that we can deliver OCR Nationals to those students who are not 'suited' to the eBacc.

Not sure how I feel about this. However, we just have to fit in with whatever the Government are shouting about.

FWIW, my Dad who works for a large company says that they now have to look abroad for their programmers, or actually train graduates themselves as they are so rubbish!

bealos Thu 03-Jan-13 21:34:49

OneLittleToddlingTerror you say I don't believe we need more programmers which is entirely valid, however I do think we need to think about the next generation having a good understanding of computational thinking and knowledge way beyond Microsoft programmes.

We are not talking about creating an army of computer programmers here, but giving our children the knowledge to competently brief and understand the development of a website, for example, and to know what are the most appropriate types of technology to use in the needs and challenges that might face them in their day to day working lives.

GirlOutNumbered Thu 03-Jan-13 21:38:55

bealos I certainly agree with your point on them understanding the development of websites etc. Last year a student would do this at our school using Dreamweaver. They would also use Flash, Fireworks, all the word packages, Serif, CAD, Scratch, Photoshop etc etc.

Starting September, they will get nothing. Unless they opt for GCSE computing and if they do, they will certainly miss out on all the skills you listed.

It't not right and in so many years time the Government will do another review, realise their mistake and interfere again!!!

cricketballs Thu 03-Jan-13 21:39:43

the problem ICT teachers have faced speaking from experience as I am one! is that until this year we have had to teacher the NC/GCSE specs; in other words we had no control over what we had to teach. This mainly means using office software, although it takes into account audience, purpose etc and to gain the higher levels there is a great deal of more independent though process needed and evaluations.

Since the abolition of the NC in this subject schools re now more free to teach what they feel is relevant. Whilst computing/programming does seem to be the fashionable route to take there are a number of problems that this does cause...

1. due to the NC the vast majority of ICT teachers have no experience in programming/computing as they have qualified in ICT and not computing

2. The computing industry has raised their concerns that teaching within school means that students learn a language that will be redundant by the time they get to university (A Level computer studies is viewed by unis as is A Level law for prospective law students)

3. The teaching of ICT skills should not be ignored for its relevance - using facebook does not mean that people have ICT skills that will enable them to use ICT in the workplace/at home (it is more than using powerpoint!). Absorption into other subjects and not delivering it as a subject in its own right will mean that our children will lose many of the skills that we are taking for granted.

4. the recent changes to GCSE specification means that it is more relevant, we have to look at up to date issues surrounding living in a digital world and we use up to date tech (we have tech updates yearly now)

Op - I applaud your son for his interest in this area; but he will be best served by developing this as a hobby outside of school as he will learn far more than in a school environment with all the constraints that schools face.

To the poster who sounds like undertook an OCR unit - you need to remember that you are not 15 years old and have to be taught the skills needed in order to complete the tasks set to gain a distinction in an hour a week...

ReallyTired Thu 03-Jan-13 21:43:36

OneLittleToddlingTerror
I have a physics degree and I would love a testing role. I am not sure how to get into testing. I have experience of programming from ten years ago and experience of IT support.

I think that programming experience makes someone a more effective tester. They have some understanding of the mistakes that programmers make. Often testing involving writing automated scripts or configoring servers. I feel a bit of programming experience makes someone more confident with general problem solving and technology.

ReallyTired I know some of the testers are ex-programmers, some used to be sysadmin, IT support. Basically computer related jobs. I have seen the ads and they do mention familiarity with testing methodologies. I think getting in is probably a case where they think you can learn the testing part quickly, and are happy with your computer knowledge (REST, SQL, Perl, whatever they are looking for).

Someone has to take a leap of faith basically and believe in the transferable skills.

BunFagFreddie Thu 03-Jan-13 22:17:58

DS's school is a technical academy, so incorporate basic programming into ICT and CAD into the technology lessons. DS is in the process of building himself a PC at the moment with DP's help.

DS won an achievemnt award for ICT at the end of the last school year, but tbh he has picked the most useful stuff up at home in his own time. DP and I are both geeks and DS is going the same way. If he wants to find out how to do things he's at the poingt where he can google it and work most of it out for himself. I just wish he was as motivated in other subjects!

Hulababy Thu 03-Jan-13 22:26:07

I used to teach ICT in secondary several years ago. I now work as a LTA in an infant school and do a lot of Y1/2 ICT. Next term I am introducing Y2 to Scratch programming if all goes well.

Ot very much depends on the curriculum taught. I was teaching programming and web design in addition to the use of software when I was there.

I teach the use of software such as Word, Power Point and Excel to Y1/2, as well as specific education software, so would hope secondary is more advanced.

DD is in Y6 and has already done Scratch programing in addition to various other ICT strands inc animations and movie making.

noblegiraffe Thu 03-Jan-13 22:27:48

When I graduated 12 years ago, I got a job in the pharmaceutical industry which led to building databases and programming. I learned it all on the job (I had a maths degree so it wasn't difficult). The databases and programming language I used were very specific to the industry. My friend got a job as a programmer for HSBC at the same time. They deliberately didn't hire anyone with programming experience, but selected through aptitude tests as they wanted to train people to program in their particular house style.

My DH did a degree in computer science and learned several programming languages. Most of them were redundant within a few years.

Learning to program isn't hard if you have an aptitude for it. Companies that moan that people can't program need to get off their arses and train people themselves to their specific needs, instead of complaining that schools need to do all the work for them. Certainly learning basic logic commands in some generic language might be useful but saying that schools should formally teach C++ or whatever is a waste of time.

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