According to this BBC News report on the eve of this year's BETT, a Microsoft spokesman has declared that 'all children should learn computer science at primary school'. No surprise there I suppose, but the bit of the report that disturbed me just a little, was the section on reasons for doing it. According to Microsoft, we should be teaching programming because 'introducing children to the basics of the subject at primary school, will help inspire more pupils to take it to degree level and ultimately the world of work' (sorry, my italics). So, serving the job market in ten years time is the reason primary children should be getting their head around algorithms and loops and feedback? At least, that's what Microsoft thinks.
Thanks to Irritable Tech for pointing out the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) Swiggle website, which has a Google-powered safe search tool on its home page. According to SWGfL, the tool 'is created using Google Custom Search with Safe Search functionality enabled. The Search promotes specific educational keywords in order to help provide results with an educational focus. In addition some sites have been blocked to help prevent inappropriate results being provided'. The site still suggests that filtering should be enabled when searching, but this looks to be a useful tool for primary children's research. It also links through to some of the best online e-safety resources, including some really useful child-friendly advice on effective searching.
Also, not a search tool, but yet another really good free online photo editor has come to my attention - Picadilo has all the usual filters and effects in a straightforward interace. Reminds me a little of the late, lamented Picnik; which is high praise!
Finally, an invitation to all primary teachers to a TeachMeet! Details in the poster below. If you would like to attend, please leave a message in the Comments box and I will pass it on.
Had a query the other day about safe, learner friendly sites for research in primary and teaching/learning about web searching. Everyone is so used to Google now as first choice for web search that other very useful sites tend to be ignored and (worryingly) Google is often used in schools and settings without an awareness of its potential dangers. First off, it is very easy to make Google relatively secure and child-friendly - on all computers that you are using, go to Google settings and set the SafeSearch filter to Strict (set a password, if learners are likely to interfere). Alternatively, set up a Google Custom Search for the topic that children will be researching - very easy to do (just make a list of sites that you want to be included), though it could be argued that it rather defeats the point of web searching by taking away the unexpected(?). On Bing, safe searching is set up in much the same way as in Google - trust Microsoft to be a copyist!
Always remember that image searching can never be 100% safe, so always proceed with caution - Google Safe Images purports to offer safe image searching, but should never be used without close supervision. The only site I would be entirely confident about is pics4learning.com.
Away from the corporate search tools, other specific tools for children include:
Just read Steve Wheeler's latest blog post about the future of classrooms and the impact of technology on the conventions of schooling. He raises some provocative questions (as ever) and, as usual, set me thinking. In his speech at BETT last year, Michael Gove made a point about the impact of technology (or lack of it) on schools by quoting the tale of the Victorian time travelling teachers who would notice little difference when visiting 21st Century classrooms. A well made (if plagiarised) point, but one that actually doesn't stand up too well. Primary classrooms have changed quite radically in the past 100 years or so - enquiry-led, collaborative learning was not a significant feature of the Victorian classroom, as far as I am aware. Of course, some aspects of the primary school day would be familiar to time travelling Victorians, but much would not.
Another point about change is our ability to see it when it happens as a step-by-step process over a long period. Only when confronted by an image of a classroom from the past can we really see the transformational changes that have taken place.
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.