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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The ICT programme of study was dull and out of date in places, and there is a lot of poor ICT teaching across the country.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

Inside the mind of a young rioter #manchesterriots #londonriots

12 min read

Like most of the UK (and beyond), I’ve spent the last 5 days watching with dismay as England has descended into widespread looting, arson & violence. It’s been a shocking example of just how thin the bubble of civilised society is and just how close we live to something akin to Lord Of The Flies.  

After the initial shock (and anger as the criminality hit my home town on Tuesday night) has started to dissipate I’m less and less surprised at what has happened. Obviously I would never condone the trouble that we have seen, but I think I can begin to understand why the ‘rioters’ decided to take part, particularly the younger offenders.

I’ve worked for the past 8 years in inner city comprehensive schools in Manchester. All the schools have made remarkable contributions to the lives of the young people who pass through their door. And I’ll make it clear now that these views are my own and do not reflect on individual pupils that I work with today. I would like to think this experience gives me a fair insight into the minds of some of the young people (and adults) who trashed Manchester & Salford city centre on Tuesday night.

There are a number of contributing factors, but two overarching ones in my opinion.

  • Disparity of wealth & opportunity increases day by day.
  • There has been a significant change for the worse in family stability & structure over the last 20 years.

Again, neither of these could ever be considered reason to go out and loot business, burn cars or throw bricks at the police, but they can help us understand why a young person might choose to do so.

We see every day on the news examples of the increasing disparity of wealth in this country, from the wages of football players to MPs expenses to the Banking Crisis. The latter in particular has had a huge affect on the lowest rungs of the prosperity ladder in this country. Unemployment is up, inflation is increasing whilst wages stagnate. Budget cuts are disproportionately harsh to low income, young people. Cuts to EMA (1), Connexions (2), school budgets (3) (Mr Gove’s Pupil Premium (4) does not make up for the losses that inner city school’s have suffered to their main budgets) and latterly youth services etc via Council budgets (5) affect the young and the poor. The raise in tuition fees makes University seem like a distant dream to many inner city pupils, there may be grants available but all a young person sees is £7000 a year. Many of the young people in inner city Manchester and cities across the country are growing up in households with 3 generations of unemployed, aspirations can’t be expected to be high in such an environment. It is, without doubt, a bleaker looking future for any young person in this country at the moment, one that has got considerably bleaker over the past 1-2 years.

Listen to the first minute or so of this interview on the streets of London on Tuesday:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmo8DG1gno4&w=560&h=349]

The man makes some great points about MP expenses, bankers greed & police taking payment from newspapers. Press coverage of these events over the past 2 years has made it quite clear that the majority of these people way way up the socio-economic ladder got away with their crimes. Greed certainly played a part in the looting that was seen - so much of it being for items that the looters desired - trainers, TVs etc.. Add to that the worrying statistic that of the 333 deaths in police custody (6) since 1998 which have lead to zero police prosecutions. My Maths brain suggests that the probability of all 333 of them having been due to unavoidable accidents or natural causes is slim. 

As far as other reasons for poor relationships with the police - It’s not my area of expertise. Calling them the 'feds’ is interesting but I’m not sure how significant. Does the excessive use of stop & search described in this article explain the hatred some people have for the police? I’m not sure, it’s not an issue I’ve hear young people I’ve worked with complain about. We’re lucky to have an amazing school based police officer who builds quality relationships with our pupils - perhaps we’re lucky?

And that article brings me nicely on to families & parenting.  Traditional, stable family structures have slowly been dissolving across the country for many years. Not just in terms of 2 parents with 2.4 children, but also in terms of extended family support. Many of the youth of today come from single parent families, many spend their spare time caring for younger siblings as their parents work. This has undoubtably lead to a decrease in parenting skills and parenting time and in turn young people’s behaviour. I don’t believe that schools are to blame here, although the education system should take some of the blame, more on that next. There is nothing worse as a teacher than making a phone call home to an unruly or disengaged pupil at the start of the year and to speak to a parent that either does not have the skills to influence their child or does not have the will to do so. If a pupil does not care about a parent’s opinions or knows that they will not be disciplined at home then a school has very little power over their behaviour. We can verbally dress down a pupil or give them a detention (without even 24hrs notice - that’ll sort it Mr Gove!), but really pupil’s have heard it all before and can happily switch off whilst being told off, or whilst sat in a detention. However if they respect their parents, and care about their opinion, then the job is so much easier. We of course work with every student and try to give them a moral and social perspective of their actions, but without a stable and supportive parental backstop it is incredibly difficult. So many young parents have been through the same system that the problem is being exacerbated. 

The education system does have an impact. And could fill an entire (already planned!) blog post on it’s own. High stakes testing and league tables lower the quality, breadth, creativity and engagement of the curriculum in the UK. School’s focus is inevitably drawn towards certain groups of pupils and certain aspects of the curriculum so that they can 'excel’ by these artificial measures. The continued devaluation of quality vocational education in preference to the traditional English Baccalaureate style curriculum restricts suitable choices for young people and reduces engagement in education. Attacks on teachers pensions and working conditions will lead to us losing quality teachers. This all contributes to disengagement with education. There is no huge secret that the much lauded Finnish education system is incredibly successful for two major reasons. Teaching is an incredibly high profile, prestigious career that attracts the finest work force. Testing is kept to a complete minimum, teachers are given the freedom to teach an engaging and creative curriculum and the professional respect & trust to monitor pupil progress without high stakes testing (7). 

I hope that this puts into some perspective the England that a swathe of our young people live in. Disengaged from education, often with parents who were also disengaged from education, with little prospect of a prosperous career whilst living in a consumerist nation where the rich are getting richer and richer and seem to be getting away with their misdemeanours. 

Society’s defense against this criminality and mob rule are the police, the law, and the criminal justice system. What seems to have happened this week is that a large number of people have lost their belief/fear/respect for this system. There will always be criminals who make a conscious decision to go out and commit a crime, and I’m use that they have been responsible for ring leading much of the trouble. But bored young people have gone out for the 'entertainment’ of seeing what was happening and have then chosen to join in in the heat of the moment, genuinely not fearing or thinking about the consequences of their actions. Read about this account from a rioter in the Toxteth Riots back in 1981. 

“I went along in 1981 because I was swept away by the mind-blowing buzz of mob mayhem. There’s no justifying that – in the crudest terms such behaviour is quite simply wrong – but try telling that to a 15-year-old on a mountain bike. To him or her, it’s like a Wii game come to life – a hyper-real version of GTA. You taunt the police until they chase you, then you leg it and regroup. Some of the more radical kids will throw rocks and set cars and wheelie bins alight to get them going, but sooner or later the "bizzies” (police) will charge.“

And then listen to the strangely succinct reasoning of this young Mancunian rioter.

"Why are you going to miss the opportunity to get free stuff?"  "It’s the Government innit? More kids don’t want to go to college cos they don’t get paid innit” “The Government aren’t in control.” “I told my Nan I’m here, she said get home, I said nah and put the phone down” “This’ll be my first offense so I’m not really bothered, the prisons are overcrowded, what they gonna do? Give me an Asbo? I’m not bothered.”

When you are poorly educated, have a lack of support at home, and a bleak outlook, a criminal record doesn’t look like the deterrent it does for you and I.

I’ll say it again, I’m not looking to condone or even sympathise with those who have chosen to go out to rob, burn and beat. But to ignore the underlying social issues in England is shortsighted and will only lead to more disturbing breakdowns of social order in the future.

As I’ve been writing this it’s becoming more and more apparent how many older and employed people have been involved and latterly charged with theft and other offenses (8). It’s a disturbing trend. My best guess is that many of them got caught up in the moment, just as the younger people did. It’s amazing just how much a mob mentality took over. Every teacher in the land has seen this in action when there is a fight or confrontation in the playground. Even the most sensible students will swarm around like moths to a flame whilst the more unruly will egg on the two at the centre of the incident. Fights can often take place that the two involved in never wanted to happen, just from the intense peer pressure of those around them. I suspect Blackberry’s BBM also added to this. It is the number one method of communication for young people today, instant, private one to many messaging, I’m sure it played a large part in the rioters ability to organise from one shop to the next.

So why riot? Boredom, peer pressure, consumerism & greed, low ambitions and no fear of the consequences. It doesn’t quite sound enough, but combined it seems to have been.

I’ve rambled a bit here, but it’s a complex and game-changing issue. Who’d have thought a week ago that so many people would so readily step outside of the boundaries of civilised society? A disturbing few days where we mustn’t assume the problem is gone when we’ve locked up a chunk of the offenders and police levels have returned to normal.

What priorities for those of us working in schools come September? Engaging again with our pupils, reflecting on what went on, looking at the impact it’s had on communities and most importantly of all working with our parents and engaging them as closely as possible in the education and future of their children. Most of all giving them the skills and drive to succeed in these difficult economic times.

(1): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12881747

(2): http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jul/18/connexions-cuts-clearing-students

(3): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13346238

(4): http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/premium/a0076063/pupil-premium-what-you-need...

(5): http://www.guardian.co.uk/local-government-network/poll/2011/aug/02/poll-youth-services-knife-crime

(6): http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/dec/03/deaths-police-custody-officers-convicted

(7): http://boingboing.net/2011/07/21/finlands-high-qualit.html

(8): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14495104

Daniel Stucke

#LWF11 - Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate

3 min read

Lord David Puttnam, man of many hats, but perhaps pertinently Chairman of Futurelab:

Joked that Stephen Heppel and he had have achieved so little in the last 20 years!  Not yet a state where what's best for the child is also what's best for the child.

Left film industry as it had ceased to be inspirational in it's use of tech and thought more could be done in educational policy.  Sadly was wrong in hindsight.

Barely begun to explore how technology can transform education.  Digital creation economy is fastest growing.  PwC report shows us as poor exporters of our services.  Education has prospective growth as an industry for the UK.  Could be a driver of growth in modern & competitive world.  More dignified than Financial Services!

Significant division within government on the role of technology in education.

Platforms and technologies have become embedded in the daily lives of teachers, they too are now digital natives.

How did we get ourselves into this mess when BETT has 70 education ministers from around the world?

Digitising old practices seeks to simply get the old outcomes only faster.

What would a digital curriculum look like if disruption did take place?

Apple re-imagined the computer and phone. Disrupted those markets.  Even got a joke about Flash in for the iPad 2!  The App economy has consequentially changed the landscape for software.

Mobile tech is close to reaching every single human being on Earth.  So where is the specific disruption that will change the way we learn?  When will we recognise the learning that takes place in creating a Youtube video or collaborate within an online World?  Our job is to build ontop of these experiences and develop them into learning opportunities.

Worst possible moment to abandon use of tech within learning, but exactly the right moment to re-start the discussions about technology in learning.  Need to talk about what the World of work will look like in 2020-2030 when the students of today begin work.

Next multi-billion invention may be in the field of learning.  Fitting in with Stephen Heppel's evolution from earlier.

Imagine being able to lower the amount of time spent in school, increasing the productivity.  Would allow us to revisit the economic discussions around school.  Higher productivity, higher skills, higher wages could let the teaching industry enjoy higher prestige.

Young people have less time to listen to 'corporate speak', dialogue makes online connections work.  Expect to be active participants within a discussion.  To win back their trust we need to engage effectively with their World.  Need to move technology to the core of their learning.

No matter how gifted or charismatic you are you will never effectively teach someone who does not relate to and respect you.

No education system can be better than the quality of teachers.  Teacher training in digital age has to be continuing. With paid time out for development.

We have to become far far more persuasive in getting our message across.

Another impassioned and inspiring call to action - I think he and Stephen may have been talking before today!

Daniel Stucke

#LWF11 - Keri Facer, Prof of Education, MMU

2 min read

Keri Facer.

Can't continue to argue about whether we focus on the individual or whether we use technology to bring learners together.

We need to learn to live with connectivity that we've never imagined before.  Evolution of non-human-like intelligence.

Need a curriculum for collaborative and collective intelligence.  Diminishing economy and rapidly changing aging demographic.  Need to understand the relationships between generations.  Beginning to see education become divided by wealth.  Changeing environmental situation.  Responding to refugees, water supply issues etc..

It's all doom and gloom, but truly passionate!

We need to develop spaces where we can all come together and solve these issues.  Can't continue the lie that  a 1st class degree will be the ticket to immunisation from these issues.  Education needed that is engaged with it's communities.

Cooperative education movements, democratic education movements, small schools, sustainable schools and education justice collectives are all helping to bridge these gaps.

How do techs build communities and enable learners to think about their futures?  Need to start shouting about these projects and values so that the next Government might support this movement.

A highly passioned, and not surprisingly well received argument.  Graham chose these two contrasting viewpoints well, certainly enlivened the debate.

Daniel Stucke

#LWF11 Katharine Birbalsingh, Teacher & Author

2 min read

Katharine Birbalsingh, the former Head Teacher famously sacked following her outspoken speech at the Tory Party conference.

Started with the story of challenging behaviour in Secondary Schools.  How have we got to this point, a dark age of education?  How can we move schools on into the 21st Century?  Need to equip children with a bag of goodies to enable them to thrive in the World.

One thought is to stop teaching so much content and to concentrate on skills, group work etc..  Basic knowledge though is necessary to be able to be creative.  Need to move back towards a more traditional form of teaching.  A middle class child already has this as they pick up so much at the dinner table, from the Maths tutor or from Dad reading at bed time.  Not so from less advantaged children who rely entirely on their schools.

Many reformers went to Grammar school and mistakenly think that most children are going through a similar education system.  Creating a system where children do not get access to the 'bag of goodies' that they themselves received.

We know that exams are being dumbed down. We are letting down many many pupils.

Many believe that an injection of tech is needed.  But this is reformers again misunderstanding what is needed.  Eton has only 2 interactive whiteboards.

Katharine continued talking along these lines, pointing out that Eton etc are very different to main stream schools, but without really going anywhere with her argument.

Argued that lack of technology not an issue as children are already skilled to the hilt from their own use.

"The education that is best for the best is the education that is best for all".  Need to be educationally Conservative.  Argued that main stream schools reject what is successful in the likes of Eton.

There is no hiding from negative feedback in this room, the Twitter feed on the hashtag throughout this talk was cutting in it's criticism.