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Daniel Stucke

Our New ICT Curriculum #ICTCurric

4 min read

Probably worth reading my last post about the disapplication of the previous ICT Program of Study and our plans to take it’s place at KS3 before proceeding with this one.

So what have we done in the 4 months since my last post?

Our fabulous ICT Department have thrashed out what we believe to be the key elements of an ICT curriculum for 2012. Taking inspiration from many places (again see the last post) we’ve come up with a core set of topics which we believe will support our learners in accessing our two KS4 qualifications if they decide to do so in the future (GCSE Computing & Creative iMedia), whilst giving them the digital skills and literacies that we believe they will need to be successful in all areas of their future learning and work.

Our core topics are:

  • Living Online
  • Publishing Online
  • Formal Digital Communications
  • Researching Online
  • Digital Presenting
  • Visual Programming & Control
  • Text Based Programming
  • Handling Digital Data
  • Digital Imaging
  • Digital Video
  • Digital Sound
  • Project Planning
  • Project Evaluation

We’ve decided to call our new curriculum ‘ICT’ - after much debate we decided it still fits the job nicely!

We’ve also throughly embraced the idea of using badges to reward and assess progress. We’re fortunate that I’m also responsible for data and assessment at our school so I’ve kindly given us permission to scrap National Curriculum levels entirely for KS3 ICT. In their place come our Badges, these will eventually be in Bronze, Silver & Gold levels for each topic. It’s an interesting experiment but we really believe that knowing you’ve achieved a Silver Award in Digital Presentation and a Bronze Award in Living Online will mean far more to learner and parent than being told they are working at a 4b. Time will tell.

We have been carefully constructing the learning objectives / learning outcomes for the badges and learners have been collating their evidence towards these using Realsmart rPassports. They’re being awarded on Edmodo for now, eventually we hope to use the full Mozilla Open Badges framework.

To give you a feel for these here’s one objective from the Living Online badge:

I can use social networks safely because I have:

  • reviewed the security and safety settings of my social networks
  • analysed my contacts and ensured that they are appropriate and can see only what I want them to
  • discussed the potential dangers of social networking, highlighting typical signs of danger
  • described how to report suspicious or abusive behaviour that I might encounter online
  • chosen the right social network for the right communications and interactions

Please feel free to see more detail on our wiki and feel free to offer your comments here. It’s very much a work in progress, we’ve got a framework in the background and are trying to keep a half term ahead of ourselves throughout the year.

It’s interesting to note that since this whole adventure started with Mr Gove’s original invitation to ICT teachers to embrace this new found freedom, he has since decided to retract that and come up with a new program of study, as far as I can tell behind closed doors from the very educators he encouraged to take up the mantle. Hopefully it will bear much resemblance to what we’re doing here. If not we’ll probably carry on with what we feel is right any way.

So far it’s been a really enjoyable start to the year. Staff have been enjoying teaching relevant skills and literacies to the students and they are getting the hang of badges. As we start awarding the first badges over the next week or so I am confident it’s going to really take off. I’m also really positive that when we get onto the likes of Digital Presentation we’re going to start seeing students using lots of evidence from other subjects to support their badges. I hope that this in turn becomes a nice guide to staff in other departments as to the actual ICT skills of our learners. With my Maths teacher head on I think it would be great to be able to look at a glance at the specific skills of my class and know in advance if they have experience of managing data or doing basic programming. Historically other teachers wouldn’t really have a clue as to the ICT skills of a student, making integrating ICT in other subjects more difficult.

Exciting times :)

Daniel Stucke

The Future Of ICT

7 min read

There has been much said about the subject of ICT in secondary schools since Michael Gove spoke at BETT. I wrote with some excitement the day after, actually praising Mr Gove for once in my life! Excited with the potential freedom and with an idea to leave National Curriculum levels behind and look towards a potentially badge based system based on mastery and application of specific skills.

Since then there has been much discussion, particularly revolving around the move towards Computer Science, including suggested curricula from the likes of Naace and reports from the likes of BCS. Meanwhile ICT teachers and leaders across the country have been formulating their own plans. From excellent sounding meetings like to the work on from Brian Sharland and co.

Opportunities and dangers lie ahead. There will be schools around the country who are not ‘connected’ to the works mentioned above, and there will be companies knocking out curriculum packs of crap to dump onto outmoded VLEs. For those schools and students I do worry. But there is also a chance to create customised, localised, exciting learning opportunities in our schools. We’re just starting to get our heads around this at our school.

So what next? We currently run successful Key Stage 4 courses in Creative iMedia and Computing GCSE. Our curriculum offer in KS3 needs to work towards preparing our students for these whilst preparing those who don’t take it on to KS4 level with the digital skills they will need for their future. We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we deliver some great ICT units at our school at the moment, but this is an opportunity to go right back to the basics of a school curriculum, look at our values and beliefs and tailor something specifically towards our students.

We are in the process of taking the National Curriculum that is being disapplied, the Naace curriculum, the ideas from the team at and elsewhere to create our own core curriculum. Online identities are in, databases are out, more visual programming is in, but not everyone needs to code in C, etc etc.. It’s liberating to have the opportunity to do this.

I’ve had many discussions with the team creating and have much praise for the work they’ve done so far. But my biggest criticism, for want of a better word, is the lack of a curriculum. A core curriculum consisting of a list of topics, skills and knowledge that a subject will deliver is still crucial in my humble opinion. Whether this is then delivered through project based learning, independent inquiry, traditional teaching, or better still a combination of all three - this should still all be built around a curriculum. We’ll probably end up with a little more than we can cover in little over an hour a week, but there’s a plan for that…

Assessment is broken. Broken in subjects such as ours with so little contact time on the timetable. Levelling students with National Curriculum sub-levels just about works in my native subject of Maths. We see the children frequently, there is a detailed curriculum and we all know what level each skill is. It’s still not perfect, knowing your level is one thing, knowing what to do to make the next step of progression is another altogether. As chief in charge of data and assessment in our school, several years of teaching ICT has made me realise how futile my request that every subject submits an NC level each half term is. If we’re being honest, do I know what a level 5c is in ICT? Does the learner? Does the parent? No? Thought not. Gove has recently suggested that Primary schools will no longer have to use National Curriculum levels in their assessments or reporting, I suspect the same will become true of the whole of KS3 over the course of the next few years. With all this in mind it’s time for a fresh idea.

Badges have been talked about probably as much as ICT over the past 6 months. Mozilla’s Open Badges project looks like a great idea and has captured the imagination of many educators, myself included. I fully support the idea of accrediting much of the informal learning that people do outside of formal educational institutions. But I also feel that there is an opportunity to use a badge system to accredit learner progress within schools. We are planning to develop a range of badges for the key skills and competencies within our new curriculum. These will probably take the form of Gold, Silver & Bronze levels for each area.

For example, awards/badges in:

  • using visual programming languages
  • online identities
  • research
  • presentation
  • etc etc

Learners will be expected to collate a range of evidence to support the award of each badge. We’re currently working towards fairly generic sounding badges, trying to avoid referring to specific tools (which frequently become out of date before learners have even finished school). I hope that learners will use a range of evidence not just from within our subject but from across their work inside and outside of school. I also hope that if we can get these right it will really help support other teachers and departments - pushing the dream of ICT becoming more integrated across the curriculum.

I believe that these will be a hit with learners and their parents. Finding out that your daughter has gained her Silver Presentation badge and her Bronze award in Publishing Online over the past term should be far more informative than being told they are working at Level 5a. I hope learners will have something valuable to take with them into later life, a set of badges they’ll be proud to display on their own professional blogs one day - this is after all effectively my online CV these days.

I’ve really enjoyed working with the team to thrash out our curriculum and plans for the coming years, it’s great to rip apart what you do and build it back up from core values and principles. It’s also been refreshing to see just how much of what we believe to be important we have been teaching already over recent years - we won’t have to re-write all the actual lesson content from scratch. We’ve also naturally headed into some interesting discussions about the purpose of ICT as a subject.

One thing we’re not quite set on… what to call the subject? Does ICT have a 'bad name’ now that needs changing? Digital Studies is a great name - but somebody has got there first! We’re not teaching Computer Science so that won’t do (not that we don’t have elements of it, but the BCS curriculum suggests we should teach all 13 year olds what packet switching is - and that’s clearly nonsense!!). Perhaps ICT2.0 or something equally naff?!

Once we’ve tidied up our draft curriculum and worked on the badges a little more I’ll share it all here. We’re very interested in feedback from the ICT community and would be delighted to work with other schools who are heading in a similar direction.

Daniel Stucke

BBC Micro 2.0 #ictcurric

4 min read

I attended Alan O'Donohoe’s excellent Hack To The Future event at Our Lady’s High School in Preston on Saturday with 13 of our students, many of whom are on our GCSE Computing course.

There were many highlights, in particular I should mention Freaky Clown and his tales of a hacker turned good. I won’t repeat his story of hacking a whole country in 7 seconds as that would be bad form, but safe to say it was engrossing stuff and our pupils were intrigued by his story.

I spent a good portion of the day talking with the team from the BBC who were there with their pre-alpha software that was the much rumoured and discussed BBC Micro 2.0. I’ve written about this previously when Keri Facer put out her call for a response on the topic.

BBC Micro 1.0

I felt a tad smug as my guess that a 2012 BBC Micro project should take the form of a software only programming environment, hopefully outputing HTML5 results, turned out to be pretty close to the mark. Parmy Brar has been the lead developer on the project and kindly talked me through some of his work so far. They have taken Eclipse (something I’d not come across before) and forked it to begin creating a simplified programming environment for children. Programming could be done in HTML or Javascript and the package was being developed to be as forgiving as possible for the amateur coder. In it’s basic mode there are 3 panels, one for coding, a browser to output the code and the final one a project file explorer. As well as outputting complete HTML5 websites, the team have an Android App output that was in semi-working form, and eventually will be looking at iOS output.

Integral to the project are built in lessons that talk you through the basics of programming different projects (akin to taking a course on CodeCademy). Parmy talked me through the back end to this area where he is creating a tool that will allow anybody to create their own help file / course for others to use. If this project is really going to take off this will be crucial as they look to build a large community around the environment. Michael Sparks had put together some exercises for the young learners to have a go at for the day and I saw kids ranging from about 8 to 16 all enjoying their first stabs at programming. Response from teachers seemed a little mixed, I saw many who were as excited as me but I also heard some discussing what was one show as scary looking (these were Heads of ICT!). I think this shows what a long way we’ve got to go on the rebirth of computing in schools and in particular the huge skills gap that we have to overcome. Projects such as this are going to be crucial in skilling up the teachers as much as the learners.

My coding experience starts with BASIC on ZX Spectrums & BBC Micros, takes in a tiny bit of Visual Basic and then stops. My experience of the past month or two with CodeYear do suggest to me that Javascript seems like a great choice of language for us to teach in schools. I discussed this with a few of the BBC team and they were all big proponents of the language, pointing out that it is now ubiquitous across the world and that almost everyone has a device that can and does read it on a daily basis.

More details about the extended BBC Hello World Project should be up at http://www.bbchelloworld.co.uk/ soon (it was online this morning but has disappeared again at the time of writing). I’m excited to see how this one develops.

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

FizzBuzz CodeYear Fun #schoolstech

3 min read

With todays announcement from Mr Gove it seems a good point to reflect on my first steps on a year long coding journey. I spent my Tuesday evening completing the first week of lessons on the brilliant CodeYear. It took me about an hour and a half and was a great little introduction to Javascript. First week covers defining variables, basic arithmetic, and moves on to if/then/else/while statements.

It’s an interesting learning model, there are hints at each stage and I didn’t find myself stuck on too many occasions. If you teach ICT or Maths then I’d thoroughly recommend you take a look at it. It was quite a challenge and I’ll be interested to see how far students could get without a teacher to help them. If they do get stuck, some good Googling skills would help them find a way forward pretty quickly. It’s not a replacement for a skilled teacher thought, but that’s a conversation for another post!

The final bonus challenge is to write a FizzBuzz program that writes out a set of consecutive numbers, but replaces multiples of 3 with “Fizz” and multiple of 5 with “Buzz” and of course, multiples of both with “FizzBuzz”. It’s a great little challenge that the Maths teacher in me loved!

I’ve been encouraging staff and students at school to join me on this journey so it’ll be interesting to see how many are up for the challenge.

Here’s my final FizzBuzz code in case you’re interested or stuck:

// Ask user how far we should Fizz Buzz for
var Total = prompt("How far shall we fizz buzz?");

// for the numbers 1 through to Total,
for (i=1; i<=Total; i++) { 

  // if the number is divisible by 3, write "Fizz"
  if ( i % 3 === 0 ) { 
    // unless the number is also divisible by 5, then write "FizzBuzz"
    if ( i % 5 === 0 ) {
    console.log("FizzBuzz");
    }
      else 
        console.log("Fizz");
  }

  // if the number is divisible by 5, write "Buzz"
  else if (i % 5 === 0 ){
    console.log("Buzz");
  }

  // otherwise, write just the number
  else {
    console.log(i);
  }
}

Has anyone written this in a neater, purer way? I’d love to see it if you have.

EDIT:

I have to include this, a solution in a tweet by Martyn Colliver:

http://www.clipboard.com/embed/LQt10-weqBP1W3iRMmcAtE_4JDm1GAT1OOme?widthAdjust=0&heightAdjust=0&sho...