The ICT curriculum – what are the biggest barriers to progress?

Guest post from Janet Murray on behalf of the Education Innovation Conference. 

The ICT curriculum has been widely criticised for being out of step with developments in technology. But with the subject currently under scrutiny, as part of the National Curriculum review in England, there is an opportunity to develop a syllabus that is a much better fit for today's learners. So what are the biggest barriers to progress? Speakers from the upcoming Education Innovation conference have their say.

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Michael Shaw, deputy editor of the Times Educational Supplement (TES)

The big issue must be how teachers can harness the true potential of ICT for learning - not to carry on using tech as simply a flashy, digital version of the same teaching tools schools have used for centuries. Quite extraordinary results are being achieved where pupils are learning on their own online. That raises big questions about the role of teachers, and some will find those questions scary. I do believe we will always need teachers - but, to quote the futurologist David Thornburg, ‘Any teacher who can be replaced by a computer deserves to be’.

Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

The biggest challenge around ICT is the increasing ‘digital divide’. There are still too many young people without access to technology or without adequate training on its use, which impacts on ability to do homework, learn IT skills required for the modern workplace or search online for jobs or training courses. As these young people often come from lower socio-economic groups, the digital divide widens as technology moves on and they’re left behind.

Maggie Philbin, TV presenter and co-founder of Teen Tech, an organisation that provides one-day careers events to give young people an insight into careers in science, technology and engineering

I think it's an exciting but very challenging time for teachers who want to do their best by students but may feel guidance is coming from many directions.

It's vital our education system responds to the demand for digital skills, which should be seen as a tool across all disciplines and not a separate subject area.

In a fast moving subject like ICT maybe we should encourage more student/teacher collaborative explorations of topics.

We probably need to look closely at Maths and how we can encourage more students to study the right kind of maths for longer.

Emma Mulqueeny, co-founder of the Coding for Kids movement

Parents and teachers are wary of exposing children to the perceived risk from paedophiles and may struggle to allow their children the freedom to learn online – the only place they can pick up some of the digital skills necessary for them to practice advanced programming.

Often, the solution to the digital renaissance is to close, protect and hide pupils and educators from the digital unknown, but this approach will fail in a digital world.

Simon Humphreys, co-ordinator, Computing at School

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a decisive and lasting change to our children’s education in ICT. The consensus is that we need to refocus computer science as a proper, rigorous, high-status, school subject, on a par with other sciences.

We need to focus not on the technology, but on the underlying discipline – and balance the need for computer science in schools with the demands for digital literacy and IT. 

Equally, we must support teachers as they begin to engage with computer science in their classrooms but lack confidence in their own knowledge and understanding of the subject.

Education Innovation is being held at Manchester Central on March 8th and 9th, 2013

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