Thoughts on the ICT curriculum

Information technology has always been a subject which can be taught in different ways: in universities we have rationalised this a little by distinguishing between information systems, which is very much a branch of management, and information technology, which is about the nuts and bolts of making systems work.

This has been brought into the public eye by Michael Gove’s recent comments on the information and communications curriculum in schools, and his intention to change it to include programming skills.  Mr Gove, as a politician, likes controversial statements, so I should point out that anything that I write here doesn’t represent approval or otherwise of his views in general, nor does it represent the views of my employer.

Still, on the comment that school ICT lessons need to go beyond just learning to use packages such as Word and Excel does seem reasonable, with three important caveats.  One is that a lot of ICT teaching does already go way beyond these packages (this piece by an ICT teacher makes interesting reading on the subject) and, as with much discussion of teaching in schools, it shouldn’t be judged either by a few examples of unispiring practice or, worse, by uninformed views of what happens in the classroom.  One is that, as in every subject, teachers shouldn’t lose sight of the need to ensure that children are familiar with basic skills.  And one is that the skills that are important now – even pure technical and programming skills – are different from the ones that will be needed in ten year’s time.  To be fair, I think the proposals do recognise this as a reason not to be over-prescriptive in what should be taught.

Similarly, the idea of a curriculum wiki is a sound one but with one particular caveat.  It’s great to get a range of opinion on what ICT education needs to offer, and a wiki could be an effective way to achieve this, but like many instances of social media, it needs to be mediated carefully.  If it means employers from Silicon roundabout discussing what they would like from schools, it’s great.  If it’s dominated by people with prejudiced ideas or narrow agendas, then it’s just an opportunity wasted


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