Yesterday, a colleague sent me an email asking “Off the top of your head, if there were three things that you’d love to say to a chief education policymaker, what would they be?”
I was on a train at the time, had 5 minutes to respond, so it’s not terribly well thought out. But I thought I’d share my thoughts, so you could add yours too:
Number One: Qualifications
The gap between what students need to do to pass exams (remember lots of facts; work with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper; work alone) and what they need to do to get a job/career (work collaboratively; demonstrate information finding/searching skills; communicate effectively in a variety of media; project manage; deal with challenge and conflict) is increasing. It is possible for ICT to be used effectively to support and assess a new style of learning, but until we start the GCSE journey so that it doesn’t all end with a child, a pencil and a blank sheet of paper in May, we’re stuck.
I worry about this professionally as well as personally, because in a few year’s’ time, my teenager is going to be that child, sitting in an exam hall, who’s success or failure in her early career may be defined by a migraine or some other uncontrollable event on that day in May.
Number Two: Use of ICT
There’s a growing gap between many students’ use of ICT and their teacher’s/institution’s use of ICT. We need a ‘Bill of Classroom Rights’ that seeks to close the gap and focuses the ICT use of students outside of learning to support ICT use in learning. Sure, YouTube can be a timewaster, but it can also be a massively valuable learning tool. Why ban it completely (would we ban books because they are the same media as comics?). By establishing the rights of students and teachers to access technology (and in the case of teachers to empower them to make professional judgements) we can help to speed up the process of closing the gap, and increasing the relevance of education to life outside (social and workplace)
This isn’t a plea for anarchy, but a way of upping the level of debate about the use of ICT in the classroom, and why it’s acceptable to remove teachers access to common, everyday ICT resources as soon as they walk into the classroom. If we’re not careful, teachers and students will just start using 3G dongles because their multi-megabyte broadband connections stop them making effective use of ICT in the classroom. Now that would be anarchy.
Number Three: ICT Funding
Turns out my number three was a little bit controversial, and the colleague said “But you can’t say that!”.
What do you think I said?
If you think that this is very ICT-centric, then I make no apology for that. I’ve spent a couple of decades working in the education ICT market, so I guessed they asked me because I had an opinion about ICT. Either that, or they asked the wrong person…