However... GCSE IT is a joke. As I've said before and will keep on saying, there needs to be Core ICT that teaches you PowerPoint (and how to use it effectively - actual presentation skills, not just technical), Excel and some of the more relevant functions, Word and things like Styles and Tables of Contents... and then there needs to be GCSE Computer Science which is for those bods who, like us, actually want to know computers. Teach them networking and algorithms and hardware, give them a good, solid foundation to specialise later on.
LOL@Nephilim. PC Pro already have their own campagn (or to be more exact have joined in the one shown last night IIRC) and, to their credit, have been pushing for better IT skills training in schools for quite some time now.
I've also calmed down a bit since last night, and I think, after much reflection it comes down to this. The original UK curriculum and schools system was setup to support industry, with maths, English and sciences being prime subjects. In many ways I think it still has to. Back in the 80's when I was at school we ICT was called Computer Studies and we were taught almost everything about computers, from components, mainframes, the jobs involved within the computer industry (most now non-existant) and, most importantly, programming, albeit BASIC. Learnign to type letters and do bassic accountign was covered in another subject called 'Office Skills' and was open to girls only for some bizzare reason! And modern industry needs those skills more than ever.
Whilst the Newsnight article was focussed on the games industry it is not just them feeling the pinch due to lack of skills. What ICT currently does not do is inspire the more capable and able students with a genuine interest in pursuing a life in computing to take it further, nor does it prepare them for the more arduous courses in higher education, and I think we (education) need to do that.
I recall several years back talking to a senior ICT advisor and bemoaning the lack of real skills being taught, only to be toald that ICT was not about aquiring real world skills, but to impart the learning skills of problem finding and processes. It was a bit disheartening TBH.
What now is interesting is that with the advent of the mobile 'app', programming is once again going back to the bedroom, to one and 2 person programming teams with daft ideas that might just work. The rest of the world knows that we are now so IT centric that they are teaching programming in tehir schools, and if we don't, we risk letting the next generation of IT genius never even realise their potential, and given that we (in the UK) have the best IT equipped schools in the world there is not excuse to let this happen.
We live in a computer centric world, and we ignore that simple fact at our peril.
I think the initiative needs to come from higher up as schools have to follow a curriculum to a degree, blame the organ grinder not the monkey etc.
It used to be quite common to assume girls should do a nice 'little' office job, nothing too demanding!'Office Skills' and was open to girls only for some bizzare reason!
As for the office software products, other subjects teach students how to use the software to enhance their learning or presentation skills, this doesn't need to be part of the IT teaching.
However, it is difficult to teach students skills in IT for industry, it is diverse and many IT aspects in a large company are split into specialist areas. Perhaps focussing on programming would be easier and far more interesting.
Thing is, the technical staff could run the courses much better than teachers (no offense to teachers here but the majority could not explain subnets, ip ranges, DHCP etc, maybe some like @garethedmondson could but he is one of the few diamonds in the rough).
If there was a course for ICT that ran basic skills up to year 9 (covering office, basic coding (PASCAL/Basic), Basic networking principles), then from year 9 branched out to the following > Networking/Software Development/General repair
Guarantee you would get more kids interested in the course, surprisingly as well, I have found girls more adept to coding than boys, but the boys more adept at networking and repair than the girls.
I broadly agree that you don't have to have been trained in coding to become good at it, but making good (and pragmatic!) code does require good analytical skills. Whether you're born with those, or whether they can be acquired is anyone's guess, but if they can be taught/encouraged I'd like to see more of that that happen... certainly doesn't have to be formal programming or anything obviously computer-centric, just something that exercises the same kind of thought processes. Bunch of us relatively literate folk (in a dodgy area) got dragged out of English classes @ 12yo and mostly did lateral thinking stuff instead, maybe that helped do the trick for me... dunno.
There are many people on here (some who have already put their heads above the parapet) who are already involved in the lobbying to the Govt about how to get more computing in schools ... and what I am about to say is not a reflection on them but about the idea about chasing targets or chasing ideas based on whatever "the next big thing" is.
1) There is a subject association for ICT. It is NAACE. Originally it was the body for consultants and LA advisors, but they merged with the subject association for ICT teachers, ACITT (I was a member of ACITT as NAACE didn't originally want a technician as a member ... thankfully that has changed). NAACE have worked long and hard to meet with the agenda of the Govt of the day. Under the previous administration it was about digital creativity, developing the ability to learn any software / device and as a tool to support the rest of the curriculum (in a similar way to Literacy / Numeracy) ... and before anyone picks holes, yes I know this is a gross generalisation. It is also worth saying that this was also supported and pushed by many folk in industry who complained that students where leaving school and not able to operate basic office applications / needed to be able to deal with the growing need to be creative /etc ... and so this is what was done.
2) Now the goalpost has shifted ... and not by the Dept for Education either. It is other Depts that are pushing for certain things and the DfE's response (IMHO) to the clamour around technology has been to latch on to Computing as the Holy Grail. Having folk like Eric Schmidt stand up and rant has helped with this, but it serves the needs of many out there to have a bandwagon to jump on. Admittedly it is a deserving bandwagon, but it could have been a number of other areas ... areas that are difficult to try to get the DfE to touch on because they are linked with agendas from the previous administration.
3) I have been asked 3 times now, at public meetings / conferences, about why some schools struggle with Computing and my response has been pretty constant. A - there is a resistance to changing exam boards and courses because the present structure suits the hoop-jumping, teach-to-plans, exam factories who want good results to keep their place in the league tables and provide the right data for OFSTED coming in. Whilst schools choose these courses and whilst exam boards are profit-making groups using the idea of competition to create courses which are more attractive to schools, then we will have a problem. B - The allegation of there not being enough good teachers is rubbish. There are lots of good teachers out there, including in Science and Maths, who need support to be able to deliver Computing, but they are there ... and some of the best Computing teachers I have come across are not Computing Science graduates (History, Media, English, Music, Art and Geography to name a few specialisms of friends) ... and this is before we get to the fact that it is often in Primary Schools that Computing can be taught so well ... and folk there really do have to cover a wide range of subjects so a specialist in Computing can be rare. C - There has been, pretty consistently, the point that a number of schools struggle to get decent coding environments running because of the restrictions put on my IT Support staff. There have been threads on here about it and the request for suggestions and with very little feedback. By all means, moan about the lack of Computing but when there are some schools who have staff who actively refuse to allow coding tools (even Scratch on 2 schools I spoke to recently) then a long, hard look needs to be taken at how ideas about running Computing courses can be improved. Then again, this is nothing new as we also have to consider controlled assessment, use of personal devices, etc ... and with *no* advice from DfE on this ...
All the above is a lot of finger waving ... at subject associations ... at the teachers / schools choosing the courses ... at support staff ... and at Govt departments ... and it is from a sense of frustration.
What can we as a group do?
Do we really think that anyone in the DfE would listen to us?
Do we think that we are in a position to help make decisions anyway?
Well ... we can do a few things. I have previously pointed out that there are people trying to look at how to make sure school networks and systems can also have tools / software on to support Computing as a course. Computing At School - Network Infrastructure and Systems for more info. Those with a serious interest should look to become members of Computing At School ... they are a cracking bunch who are trying to join a lot of this together. It is not being done in isolation as most of the members are also linked in elsewhere, whether BCS, NAACE, BESA and many more areas. We can sit down with those your ICT Depts and those doing curriculum planning so that you can make sure that the right tools are ready asap. It might be that it is not even the ICT Dept who are interested ... it could be Maths, Geography, History or other subjects ... have a chat to the Met Office and look at the people who do the research ... serious computing goes on by people who concentrated on Maths and Geography at school.
If you hear of good ideas then share it ... whether here, via CAS, via BCS ... it doesn't matter where.
There is also a slightly selfish strand that can be used for this ... if there is an agenda or target, and you are seen to be working to help it then you can also be in a better position to get what you need as a team too. YMMV but don't be scared of using the bandwagon too ... just be careful not to tip it over.
As for lobbying from Local Government ... not enough people left to raise a fight ... and those who are still around are part of CAS / BCS / NAACE anyway.
I learned how to code by teaching myself.
I learned how to code correctly through my Computing A-Level.
(Then I learned that none of the above mattered in the first year of my degree because they never did code reviews, and I learned that I hate coding in my first coding job.)
As I said to @nephilim last night - enough talk people. Go and sign up to Computing at School and get involved in shaping or lobbying for a new Computing curriculum. Neither teachers nor technicians are going to change things - it has to be the SMT pushing upwards. We may have the knowledge to do the job but we have to convince the powers that be to trust us and allow the change.
Here are the links: Computing at School :: Computing For the Next Generation ...
Join up to the mailing list: Computing at School :: Joining CAS
Get in there and give your opinion. Some knowledgable people post here - including David Braben.
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