I have been using Delicious to compile a set of links and resources to help in planning a more Computing-focused curriculum in primary schools. I am adding stuff regularly, so please re-visit - the link is https://delicious.com/tonypickford/programming
If the proposed new National Curriculum for England was designed to get a reaction, then it has been a very effective document. The fact that the ICT (sorry, Computing) proposals have proved to be one of the least contentious aspects, gives some indication of the reactions to much of the rest of the document. Without exploring the fine details of the controversy and debate (this gives a flavour for just one curriculum area), the responses have been sparked by a paradigm shift in curriculum requirements from the usual mix of processes, skills and factual knowledge to an approach entirely dominated by facts to be imparted. Though radical and informed by a deficit view of children's knowledge and capabilities, the approach is grounded in a fairly logical set of propositions. Whether it be simple reading comprehension or informed participation in a democratic society, all children (and adults) need to be culturally literate - imbued with a shared cultural knowledge across language, literature, humanities, arts and sciences. If all receive this body of incontestable factual information, then inequalities caused by different social and/or economic backgrounds will be addressed. The arguments supporting the approach are appealing, especially for politicians looking for simple solutions or academics out to make a name for themselves. Where the approach falls apart or, to be more kind, raises questions is in its implementation (and of course, the very idea of incontestable information) - delivery of a huge amount of knowledge across a relatively few years of schooling will mean that even young children will have to receive a diet of complex facts and very challenging concepts. Look at the key stage one requirements across the new National Curriculum to see what I mean - or better still, take a look at the Core Knowledge Sequence UK, developed by Civitas, which carries the approach to its logical conclusions.
It was when looking at the latter curriculum that I was struck by what is missing. Core Knowledge, or at least its UK form, appears to make only a few references to technology - Tim Berners-Lee gets a mention in Y6 science and data handling features in mathematics - but, there is little sense that cultural literacy in the 21st Century might include technological or digital literacy. Surely, an approach to curriculum making that values factual knowledge would expect informed 21st Century citizens to know something about the technology that surrounds them and underpins the functioning of society? If facts are all important, then a warning about the status of facts on Wikipedia might be useful? If Time-Berners Lee gets a mention, then what about Ted Nelson or Douglas Engelbart or Alan Turing? Shouldn't we know what happens across networks when we click the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button on Google? Or is cultural literacy actually about the past rather than the present?
And the title of this post - of course the culturally literate will recognise it.
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.