A really interesting post on the idea of teaching 21st Century skills - http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2011/11/21st-century-skills-are-so-last-century.html plus my submission to the 'Beauty of a Second' video competition below.
There appear to be at least two themes running through the development of educational technology at the moment: the move towards a more programming-focused, 'computer science' type curriculum and the increasing use of mobile, handheld technology in the classroom and beyond, e.g. smartphones. I have now heard about several local schools who have invested in iPads as a means of harnessing technology across the curriculum. Are these two themes pulling ICT in different directions or are they linked? Maybe this app provides a clue? Or this one?
Although Mr. Gove has been quiet on the subject so far, the move to a more 'computer science' focused technology curriculum in the UK was strengthened by the government's response to an 'independent review' by two leaders in the games industry. The Guardian reported that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said on Monday 'that classes in computing – known as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – are "insufficiently rigorous" and in need of reform'. The BBC headlined with 'Government backs call for classroom coding'. And suggested that computer coding is the new Latin - now that is really going to get children interested!
So what might this look like in primary schools? Simon Haughton provided some timely support on 26th November: 'Teaching Control Programming with 2Go' from 2Simple. I will be introducing PGCE Primary students to MicroWorlds JR later this week - can't wait?!
This article by Bob Harrison provides some useful insights into government policy in relation to ICT in education. Unsurprisingly the focus seems to be on schools 'helping each other' with limited (or non-existent) support and/or funding from DfE. An interesting quote: '... the last BECTA ICT research, the OFSTED report on ICT in schools, and a more recent BESA schools survey suggest that “some schools know better than others” but the effective use of ICT across all sectors in education is extremely variable. The challenge is how do we reduce the variation in provision and avoid a “digital divide” which may exacerbate other existing divisions and obviously raises issues of equity and equality of opportunity ...'
With a new education bill just published and a curriculum review announced, these appear to be exciting times of change in education. The omens do not look good for a technology-embedded curriculum, however. Where the Rose review put ICT in a position of some prominence as an 'Essential for Learning and Life', the current Education Secretary seems to view technology as a peripheral concern and even a distraction from serious learning about phonics, tables and the kings and queens of England! A 1950s view of the curriculum seems hardly suited to the digital natives of the 21st Century, but we seem to be harking back to a mythical golden age of factual learning where technology played no part because it did not exist. It is interesting that an article in the TES last week seemed to undermine some of the international comparisons that are being used to justify change to a more content-led curriculum. Apparently, in Hong Kong, teachers use 'an issue-based enquiry method to teach students how to think and analyse". Isn't that what we have been doing in the UK for the past 20 years?
Anyone researching games-based learning (and 21st Century curricula, in general) will find some useful and thought-provoking articles on James Paul Gee's web site. Professor Gee has the wonderful title of 'Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies' at Arizona State University and has written extensively on literacy, learning and games. Mark Prensky is another noted author in relation to 21st Century learning - try 'Simple Changes in Current Practices May Save Our Schools' as a starting point (note that the 'Charter Schools' that he mentions are the same as Free Schools' in England').
Some interesting conversations today about the research-base, implications and shape of a technology-led curriculum. Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence is a good example of a curriculum where ICT skills and understandings are embedded and technological literacy is valued alongside other literacies. For a more school-based and classroom focused example of embedded technologies, take a look at this US example of technology-led learning: www.apple.com/education/profiles/escondido/
Many of you will be thinking about planning for ICT in school over the next few months. At the centre of good planning - whether it be a couple of lessons or activities or a sequence over half a term - is an understanding of progression: how children can 'get better' at doing ICT; what their next steps should be. There are several sources of support for progression in primary ICT (including an excellent book by Bennett, Hamill and Pickford), but the best online materials are those produced by the E-Learning Team in Somerset. Their Primary Progressions Documents cover all the strands of ICT and E-Safety.
A good starting point for thinking about how the curriculum (and education, in general) may need to change to meet new needs, challenges and demands in the 21st Century is Sir Ken Robinson's website and this animated talk. The 21st Century Schools website give some insights into what a 21st century curriculum might look like. The contribution of ICT is explored by Terry Freedman's ICT in Education website and the Enquiring Minds project explores the idea of an enquiry-led approach to learning.
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.