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Daniel Stucke

Bravo Mr Gove #schoolstech #ictcurric

4 min read

Unless you’ve been living under a rock today I’m assuming you’ll have seen some excitable headlines followed by a more detailed speech about the future of technology in education in the UK and in particular the future of the subject of ICT.

In a nutshell Mr Gove has scrapped the ICT curriculum, whilst keeping ICT in the curriculum. Confused? Don’t be. We can now effectively teach whatever we want. There will be a consultation, and there will hopefully be new ‘Computer Science’ qualifications in the pipeline. Mr Gove has listened to the calls of industry and responded with startling ruthlessness.

I’m delighted that my school is in a great position to make the most of these changes (in fact we won’t have many changes). We acted on the NextGen report when it came out last year and have a Y10 group working on the OCR Computing GCSE that I suspect Gove was alluding to in his speech. (Some of our other decisions back then with regards to Creative iMedia & MOS might not prove so long serving).

I never thought I’d say the words, but bravo Mr Gove!

The ICT programme of study was dull and out of date in places, and there is a lot of poor ICT teaching across the country. There is also a wealth of incredible teaching by teachers who have ignored / bent / destroyed the current program of study to their needs. Gove’s decision today means they are free to do so without worry of Ofsted and co castigating them for doing so. There is of course a danger that specific ICT lessons will dwindle in number further with this move. Integrating the skills across the curriculum is key, but we still need specialist teachers delivering these skills with panache if we are to really generate the next generation of talented, creative, coders.

The move to include more Computing / Programming / Computer Science has been much debated of late. It needs to be optional at KS4 but I’m in full support of this. Well qualified & skilled teachers to deliver this will be an issue.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in ICT. It’ll be interesting to see if we really do make it through the next few years without being told what to teach. And it will be interesting to see what qualifications become available at KS4 for us to work towards (and in turn what skills they focus us upon). This is a great chance to continue some of the great work that has gone on with and other endeavours to start putting together a set of core skills and competencies for Digital Literacy & ICT.

A particularly exciting thought crossed my mind when reading the full transcript of the speech. As the programme of study goes, so do the assessment levels and criteria. There will be nothing to say what a Level 5 in ICT is. So how about we scrap levels? What does achieving a Level 5 in ICT really mean? And who understands it? I’d suggest that half the students in KS3 don’t know, no teacher outside of the subject would know, and very few parents would know. Could we put together a simple list of core skills and competencies and measure learner’s progression in each of these. Something akin to APP lite, maybe with a Mozilla Badge system to award and recognise mastery and application of these skills? I suspect that National Curriculum levels will be phased out across the board over coming years, so this could be a great opportunity to put together something far more meaningful. I’d be much happier with my Maths teaching hat on if I could look at my learners records and see who has a Silver Award in Spreadsheets, or a Bronze Award in Scratch Programming, it would be far more meaningful to me and make planning the integration of ICT skills into that subject far easier.

So. Bravo Mr Gove. I may disagree with you a lot of the time, but you’ve been bold today and deserve respect for it. Join in the conversation that has been started today using the hashtag and at the website http://schoolstech.org.uk/. And welcome to the brave new world, when the National Curriculum review finally kicks into action don’t be surprised to see other subjects head in a similar direction.

Daniel Stucke

#BETT2012 In Lists

3 min read

For the first time in about four years I won’t be visiting BETT this year in London. For the un-initiated BETT is an enormous educational technology trade show / conference held at Olympia in London each January.

Things I’ll miss:

  • Bumping into other educators I know from Twitter etc.
  • Attending some of the fringe events e.g. Teachmeets.
  • Seeing some of our existing partners who we currently source products from.
  • Seeing the personal friends who I stay with when visiting.

Things I won’t miss:

  • Being harassed at every turn by a salesman.
  • Walking round and round and round and round.
  • Queuing to put my coat in.
  • Searching for some phone/wifi signal.
  • Buying over priced snacks.
  • Seeing the latest 3D screen / projector / TV.
  • Seeing the latest amazing developments in the world of Interactive Whiteboards.
  • Seeing the latest and greatest VLE.
  • Seeing the latest….. oh you get the idea!
  • Sleeping on a sofa-bed to save money for school (although see point 4 in the positives).
  • A bag full of useless freebies - seriously I got some 64Mb USB sticks last year - who knew they even made them so small still?!?

Things I’ll do instead:

  • Keep up on anything valuable I’ve missed via Twitter hastags and people’s blogs.
  • Ask companies to come and see me personally at school if we think we want to work with them.
  • Teach my Year 11s on the run up to their exams.
  • Save school a chunk of money.
  • Look to visit some schools that are leading on areas that we are planning to develop.

In this day and age, unless you have a bunch of projects on the go and products to buy then it’s hard to justify attending BETT. I’m speaking from the viewpoint of a teacher / school leaders / IT coordinator here, I know if you’re working in the industry it’s useful to have everyone under one roof. But as educators, in this day and age, you should be able to see and hear all about the latest and greatest tools for learning online as and when they appear on the market. And you should be able to hear this from real teachers who are really using the products with real children - that beats sales patter any day of the year!

Will you be attending BETT? What do you hope to get out of the show?

Daniel Stucke

Home Access - Free Computers & Internet for Low Income Families

3 min read

Gordon Brown finally announced the Home Access programme last week. Organised by Becta this scheme will provide 270,000 households with a voucher that is redeemable for a computer along with 1 year's Internet access, a suite of software and also support.

Families will be eligible if they have a child in Years 3-7, they have not been beneficiaries of a similar scheme in the past and they are entitled to Free School Meals or a range of other Income based benefits.

The scheme is independent of schools, although they can organise to bulk apply for the packages (I have heard this results in delays).  Parents need to call the Home Access Grant Helpline on 0333 200 1004 for an application form, they will be told over the phone if they are eligible.

All of the packages on offer include 'Assistive Technologies'.  I saw a presentation on these at BETT last week and they do look impressive.  The base package consists of a piece of Mind Mapping software, Mind View3; Text Help Read & Write software that includes spell checking, grammar suggestion and text to speak capabilities and finally issist iZoom screen magnification software.

The second package includes specific hardware solutions such as trackballs, high contrast keyboard stickers, larger keyboards, trackpads etc..  The third package which is not ready to go yet, is for those with more specific physical needs and will include home visits and assessments if necessary.

Although not run through our school I am keen to ensure that every child that is eligible for this benefits from it, so we will be sending a letter home to all of our Year 7-9 pupils encouraging them to apply.  I will then run some form-filling drop-in evenings at school.  Over half of our pupils have English as a second language so I'm sure some of the parents will appreciate the help in completing the forms.  I'll also be liaising closely with my SEN department to ensure that those with additional needs benefit from the assistive technology packages.

I spoke with a representative from Becta about this package.  Many of our pupils benefited for the laptops for pupils scheme a year ago, so won't be eligible for the new schme, but would certainly benefit from the software package.  He confirmed that the package will be available in all of the approved retailers and should be under £50 which represents a considerable saving.  They are also looking into making it available to schools for their own systems.

Further details and promotional materials for schools are available from the Home Access website if you register as a school, however feel free to borrow my letter.

And also check out @simonhaughton 's Etherpad of ideas: http://parkfield.etherpad.com/4?

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