Jan 2012

The lowdown on new plans for improved ICT education

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The world of technology is moving at a fast pace at the moment, with continuing developments and innovative thinking. It looks as though this is set to continue, but what will the future look like unless we keep up? According to Education Secretary Michael Gove, it all depends on Information and Communication Technology classes in schools being updated. This is exactly what he thinks needs to happen. The country’s ICT curriculum needs a major shake-up, Gove announced recently in a speech at the BETT information technology show in London.

Let’s have a look at the reasons why we need to keep up with the changing technological environment:

  • For a start, education needs to keep up with the students themselves. One of the main reasons why children get bored in class is that they find that the subject matter too easy. If they already know what they are supposed to be “learning”, then they won’t pay much attention. And many teachers are finding that this is the case now, as many students have already learned a lot about computing and technology by using their own computers and mobile phones.
  • BBC News has reported that, while preparing for his GCSEs, a 16-year-old London schoolboy has created an app that simplifies internet searches. He spoke out about how inspired he was by web design lessons and how he believes that if such lessons were introduced across the country, many more school children would be inspired in the same way as he was.
  • Companies are complaining that there is a shortage of graduates that actually understand computer science. According to The Guardian, many current computer science courses are just not good enough, and this is causing many companies to have to train new recruits extensively, before their computer knowledge is up to scratch.

What specifically should students be learning in their ICT lessons?

  • A group of scientists including Nobel prize winner Paul Nurse have voiced their opinion that the current content of ICT education in the UK is not satisfactory. They say that lessons make people feel comfortable with technology around them, however it is also important for some to develop a deeper understanding or computer science.
  • Primary school students should learn how to code, and those aged 14 years and over should be offered a recognised computer science qualification. The subject needs to go into more detail so that today’s students can become tomorrow’s technology experts who actually know how to create instead of simply learning the ropes.
  • At the moment, teachers are concerned because the ICT curriculum is centred around office-based applications. Students are learning how to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint, which do not prepare them for the wide variety of jobs that will be available when they graduate. We need to ensure that the world will have a new generation of computer creators and developers, and this will not be possible if young people of today are not comprehensively educated in this.
  • There are only 150 schools in England that offer computer studies at GCSE at the moment. Here, they learn about Microsoft’s Visual Basic and JavaScript so that they can gain the skills to go on and develop websites, games and online tools. The opinion among many is that more children should learn about computers in this amount of detail, so that they can begin to create things such as apps from a young age, and then grow into the next generation of computer software developers.

How will ICT lessons be updated in schools?

  • First of all, the knowledge of the teachers must be improved. In his speech, Gove points out that teachers must feel confident enough in their subject in order to pass on their knowledge to students. So the government must invest in individual teachers by giving them the best possible training in the use of education technology, both in ITT and CPD. Their pupils can only benefit once they have the skills to deal with and adapt to new technology.
  • The new way of approaching ICT education in schools will be to give teachers much more freedom. Schools will be able to follow open-source online resources that have had contributions from experts, universities and businesses and new Computer Science GCSEs will be developed.

These new plans promise a long-awaited shake-up in the ICT system. If the improvements go to plan, hopefully it will encourage authorities to think about the whole education system in general. Perhaps all subjects should be updated in a similar way, after all, in his speech Gove says that while there have been countless new inventions and developments in the world since Alan Turing’s time, the same cannot be said for education. Teachers still stand up in front of a class, talking and testing, in the same way as they did in Victorian times, and even as they did when Plato established his “akademia”.  Maybe wide-spread change is in the offing.

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One Response to “The lowdown on new plans for improved ICT education”

  1. [...] their own standards. This announcement comes a couple of weeks after plans to reform the school ICT curriculum were [...]

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