I have just created a new page on this site devoted to programming in primary schools. It includes links to general resources, software, online tools and apps. Hopefully, it will be a useful source of ideas and information in preparation for the Computing curriculum in 2014. Please let me know if there are obvious resources I have missed!
So we have a new draft framework for the National Curriculum In England and across the board subject-by-subject there appears to be a theme: it's content-heavy and it's challenging. Whether it's mathematical basics or the 'facts' of British history, there's a lot to cram in and some of it shows little awareness of age appropriateness or relevance. The Computing curriculum is a case in point - in primary, we now have algorthms and 'sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; ... variables and various forms of input and output' to contend with. Basically, if it's not hard work to learn and to teach, then its not worthwhile. But wait a minute, that isn't what technology is about, is it? Surely technology is about making it easier to do things? About enabling children to engage in creative processes and make products that would have been impossible in the past. Children can now make videos and animations with handheld devices that would have required a roomful of kit and a well-funded chequebook just a few years ago.
Computing (or dare I call it, ICT) is about tools for learning across the curriculum, but the document makes no mention of them in any other subject. Instead we have a dark recess of the curriculum (that the Expert Panel, remember them, didn't think worthy of a programme of study) that is dominated by programming. And let's be honest, programming is an acquired taste for learner (and teacher). If done well, programming can be engaging, but if done badly, it is dull, tedious and repetitive stuff - 'now let's go back for the tenth time and see if we can get the turtle to draw a Christmas tree'. So do I despair? No. There is enough in the Computing curriculum to ensure that links are made with ways that technology enhances learning and makes a difference in the real world.
An initial first draft of the new National Curriculum programme of study for ICT is now on the
As we approach a new school year, I thought the post below (originally from February) may now be very relevant for all those planning their ICT for 2012-13.
Although the disapplying of the ICT programmes of study in September raises some issues and concerns (see That Speech ... from 12th January), there is no doubt that it presents opportunities to re-focus ICT work in schools and create activities, schemes and frameworks which are innovative, creative and downright exciting! A blank slate on which to work can be intimidating, however, and most primary ICT co-ordinators will need support, if they are replace current National Curriculum-based planning with something better. Fortunately, there is plenty of support out there! Many teachers and local authority support services have, for some time, viewed National Curriculum ICT as a baseline and minimum entitlement from which to develop a rich, relevant, up-to-date activities and schemes. Below are just a few of the best documents to support ICT planning in a PoS-free world.
Been quiet for while - nothing has stirred me to blog recently or maybe just getting lazy. Anyway, I have been stirred by this nice irreverent piece from The Register website, which sums up the current state of ICT in the English curriculum - a sorry tale of awkward questions leading to backtracking, confusion and platitudes. The Monty Python-related connotation of 'just resting' in the piece's title made me smile. I won't try to explain this in detail to those too young to remember Python or those who have never seen the Parrot Sketch. Suffice it to say, the sketch is about an irate customer claiming his money back for a dead feathered friend that he has been sold by a shifty pet shop owner. 'Just resting' is one of the pet shop owner's excuses for the inert behaviour of the bird. Perhaps, like the Norwegian Blue parrot, ICT isn't resting, but is in a far more serious condition?
Whatever form learning and teaching about technology might take in the curriculum, this article (despite a rather strange introduction) makes a very important point about the built-in obselescence of whatever we decide to teach.
Image: Creative Commons Licence http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhinoneal
Some developing thoughts and ideas on technology and globalisation on my LiveJournal Blog - tonypickford.livejournal.com
I shared Steve Wheeler's excellent blog post about 'Bear Pit Pedagogy' with colleagues in an (Education) Faculty this week and received a range of responses, from the wildly enthusiastic to the downright sceptical. The Faculty is embarking on writing modules for a new degree programme at the moment, so I thought it was apposite. One theme that recurred in comments was the difficulty of adopting a 'Bear Pit' approach within a 'compliance culture' in both teacher training and in schools. Also, the retention issues that might result from a 'throwing in at the deep end' approach - Yr 1 straight-from-school undergraduates, who have been used to the support networks offered by sixth form, often struggle within a less supported environment and this type of approach was seen by colleagues as too much too soon. The best comment a colleague made was that he likened the approach in a compliance-conscious environment as being 'Teddy Bear Pit Pedagogy'.
Fundamental to Steve's approach is the idea of getting intending teachers to question some of the theories and orthodoxies that they find in schools and elsewhere. A particular example is the unquestioning and simplistic adoption of learning styles theory as a way of defining how some children learn - vakuous (sic) in the extreme. Similarly, the 'if it's new, it must be good' approach to educational technology and the dismissing of older software and tools as being no longer valuable. A case in point - as an introduction to data handling, I still recommend Heather Govier's 1997 article on the MAPE website as a really useful analysis of educational software and children's learning. The programs she refers to are now literally obsolete (BBC B anyone?), but the thinking prompted by the article is invaluable. The article's message: deep thinking and deep learning is not necessarily prompted by tools with all the latest bells and whistles.
Finally, although I love Weebly (OK, maybe a bit strong), it is a bit frustrating that the site (and this blog) can only be edited on Flash-equipped devices. No way round it at the moment (though there is a Weebly iPhone app in the works), so I have set up tonypickford.livejournal.com as a way of doing some (almost) live blogging when I haven't got laptop or desktop to hand. First post is about a research symposium on Black, Minority and Ethnic Achievement.
And absolutely finally, http://bomomo.com is a truly weird visual toy for creating artworks - quite addictive
Don't know if 24 hours or so qualifies as adequate time for reflection, but I decided I'd jot down some initial thoughts about Michael Goves's BETT 2012 speech today before they got lost amongst everything else I'm doing at the moment. A quick browse though Twitter showed I was actually being quite slow of the mark with several blog posts already making some well argued points. After a quick digression into some fascinating research on coincidences, I happened upon Terry Freedman's Blog post, 'Developments in Education Technology: Reflections on the first day of BETT' and found, by coincidence(?), he was making, amongst others, the very points I wanted to make!
He writes: 'Mr Gove mentioned, as is de rigeur these days, that the current ICT curriculum is boring, and that by dropping the ICT Programme of Study children will no longer need to bored by having to learn Word and Excel. Well, given that these are not mentioned in the Programme of Study, how will dropping it have any effect? Also, given that programming IS in the Programme of Study, but is not usually adequately covered, how will dropping the POS change anything there either?''
Couldn't have put it better myself! From a primary perspective, Ofsted have been going on for years about the same old weaknesses of primary ICT: namely superficial data handling, weak control technology and poor assessment of children's abilities. Without the clear requirements of the programme of study and the assessment support in the National Curriculum (NC Action, anyone?) will these get any better? You could argue that these are not done well because of the outdated PoS, though I would assert that these areas are well covered in the PoS and the only really outdated bit is the Exchanging and Sharing Information strand.
Without the PoS to prompt them, some primary teachers (and schools?) will start to avoid the bits of ICT that are difficult and challenging for them and the children, i.e the stuff that proponents of a more 'Computer Science' approach think are important! This may be no bad thing thing - there is nothing worse than a badly taught lesson on LOGO or yet another tedious attempt to light up the clown's nose and swivel his bow tie using an aging control box! Freedom to use 'to use the amazing resources that already exist on the web' could mean lots of exciting and engaging work with Scratch* or similar. Or it could mean a drift towards pointless web-based drill and practice and tedious online painting packages?
On a lighter note, I have run Mr. Gove's speech through Tagxedo - an interesting alternative to Wordle - and also come across AnswerGarden for the first time: please give me your views (very briefly below!)
* Not a web-based tool, I know, but a free web download.
Much has already been said today about Michael Gove's speech at BETT 2012 - in the papers, online, on Twitter and in a stream of emails I have received today. Probably right now is not the time to offer opinions - some quiet reflection needed about implications, if any, for primary. Mr Gove did give a passing reference to how his preferred approach to technology in education might manifest itself in key stage 2: 'we could have 11 year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch'. The focus was mainly on 'harmful, boring and/or irrelevant' ICT in the secondary curriculum - or did he mean primary too? Anyway, as a first stab at reflection, here is the speech when viewed through the lens of Wordle - maybe all it proves is that you can't talk about technology without using the word 'technology'. Also note, hiding at the bottom is that little word .....
And another key document has been published (sneaked out?) this week by DfE. Consultation on the Areas of learning and Early Learning Goals for Foundation Stage was announced on Tuesday. The key documents show a slimmed down (surprise?) set of requirements with a focus on the 'basics'. Learning about technology does get a mention, but references to specifics in the current EYFS documentation (e.g. programmable toys) have disappeared. Should the findings of the Expert Panel Review of the National Curriculum be implemented, this could be the only place in the statutory curriculum where learning with/about technology gets a mention?!
Anyway, as the title says, its the time to wish readers of these ramblings very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Looking forward to 2012?
A parting shot - this mind/concept map of links and sources for Global Learning and ESD was created in Mind42. An intuitive and useful tool.
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.