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to worry about ICT teaching in schools

(60 Posts)
ReallyTired England 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?

PurpleRayne Tue 08-Jan-13 09:42:40

YANBU. The school ICT curriculum is a lottery depending on where you live.

Your best bet is to ensure your son has access to a rich provision at home.

cory Tue 08-Jan-13 08:52:10

I think to some extent you also have to accept that school cannot always exactly suit pupils with special interests or special knowledge of a subject: though some differentiation can and does happen, the main thrust of the subject must be aimed at the needs of the majority.

The school's PE lessons could not cater for dd's friend who was of Olympic standards. Db's school could not provide him with a teacher of symphonic orchestra calibre to teach him music to the standard he needed. Someone who arrives at Yr 7 French lessons speaking fluent French and with a passionate interest in French Classical drama may well end up being bored at times.

I'm not sure a little bit of boredom in one subject does that much harm: it is part of growing up to learn how to kindle and maintain your own passion even under adverse circumstances. My own db did this by building his own computers and instructing the school staff in programming at his secondary. He now runs a successful computer firm.

But I wouldn't assume that the school computer studies have nothing to offer your ds even if he is too advanced for aspects of them: as Minniet points out, they are very much about how to use computers in RL situations and making yourself more employable.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 08-Jan-13 08:32:44

Minniet - it depends a lot (perhaps more than with other subjects as it changes so rapidly) on the individual teacher. My DD has had some good, some indifferent. I do agree that some of the ICT content is very useful (about once a year I really wish I'd been taught how to use spreadsheets properly - I don't use them enough to have bothered learning myself --though DH has so it can't be too hard--)

About the Pi - seems to me that its USP is not the straightforward scratch/python programming but that its a cheap way to allow kids to build interfaces to RL devices - as the OP's DS is doing. No, not every child needs to learn this sort of thing - given that not all kids can have this sort of kit at home maybe there should be a gov(e) initiative to help all schools set up techie clubs (and work out how to not make them boy geek ghettos!)

sashh Tue 08-Jan-13 04:19:10

ICT is not Computing.

Minniet Mon 07-Jan-13 23:37:21

I teach ICT and computing and have a degree in Computer Science along with several years industry experience. People on this forum are talking about children "doing raspberry pi" - raspberry pi is a mini computer which allows you to run program's which can just as easily be run on other computers. It is indeed an amazing thing but it's a vehicle for accessing technology not a skill in itself.

ICT will vary from school to school but I know of lots of schools committed to teaching students the broad and varied transferable skills required. Some of these will include spreadsheets and anyone from industry that uses spreadsheets will understand how powerful they are. Unfortunately too many people like Mr Gove, who has probably never used a spreadsheet in his life, are quick to run down something they simply don't understand.

It is a fact that every child will be using computers in any walk of life that they choose. Of course they will learn skills at home - some more than others - I love to see children taking initiative and actively encourage this through extra curricular clubs and setting challenges. Not all children will need to program. It's great that students are now being given the opportunity to learn at school and I love teaching Computer Science - however it is not for everyone.

The vast majority of children start secondary school not understanding basic concepts such as file storage. They may be a whizz at downloading apps and playing games on their iPad but their understanding is completely lacking.

At my school the ks3 curriculum gives students a wide range of experiences which include scratch with extensions in other languages, web design ( including coding with HTML and CSS), movie editing, photoshop, spreadsheets, databases, sound editing, how a computer works. We strive to use a range of software to provide students with transferable skills and keep our curriculum current.

We offer both ICT and Computing for GCSE and A Level and work very hard to offer the best curriculum for the needs of our students.

It is a shame people on this forum seem to have such misplaced judgements about ICT teachers.

numbum Thu 03-Jan-13 23:52:06

My 7 year old trumped his IT geek dad by setting the raspberry pi up as a media centre for the TV santa bought him.

Catchingmockingbirds Thu 03-Jan-13 23:12:06

What an odd post peace.

peaceandlovebunny Thu 03-Jan-13 22:57:03

is that all you have to worry about?

Catchingmockingbirds Thu 03-Jan-13 22:49:34

Yabu, I learned how to program computers when I done ICT in secondary school.

Hulababy Thu 03-Jan-13 22:31:17

I agree that the main issue for many schools is the lack of decent ICT equipment and siftware, even more so at primary level.

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.

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.

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!

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

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).

ReallyTired England 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.

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...

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!!!

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 21:33:33

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!

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 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.

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.

ReallyTired England 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.

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.

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