Saturday, 13 October 2012

Who is teaching IT?

National Curriculum and ICT.

The debate is it  ICT or computer science we are to teach in English Schools.  I say English  since we have differing Curricula in the UK between the home nations.  For those not aware of the difference Information Communication Technology is the use of propriety software to improve the user interface, while computer science is loosely taken to mean how to code and understand how the black box works.

The past 15 years or so of the National Curriculum has sought to make people Microsoft Office literate.  Great if we were in the UK    to be the great service economy as promised 25 years ago.  Over the years the teaching of ICT has been dominated by Microsoft Office programmes.  Even though there is no stipulation anywhere in guidance notes or the curriculum that stipulates Microsoft products.  It has just happened that way!

In my experience, even I have to hold my hands up to this, most teachers of ICT do not have anything to do with the maintenance of the servers or the day to day admin tasks.  As a head of ICT I operated with a technician off-site (who was originally employed by me in the school), anything to do with server they sorted out.  Most Admin tasks I was able to carry out but also being a Head of Science I did not have the time to do the Microsoft Server work.  It is a very labour intensive system environment prone to falling over.

With new Academies setting up and the emergence of Linnux and open licence software, Google Chrome and Android Apps there is the chance to move away from Microsoft and Apple.  The cost of the licensing and equipment (more so in Apples case) is a major part of the cost of putting in an ICT suite.  Having been responsible for the installation of  a suite of 30 desktops, furniture, with Server and optical networking plus WiFi in 2005 across a site having 35+rooms for just over £30,000.  The frustrating part was having to pay for the educational licenses.  This is especially gauling since we are training users of Microsoft technologies  who will more than likely be captive users for the rest of their lives. Old habits die hard!

The idea of coding with the community of ICT teachers is something that is often considered too hard.  We took part in the Schools Organisational Review as one of the first schools in Suffolk and Federated with an Upper School that eventually subsumed the school.  The help that was sent down to bring ICT "up to speed" was very dismissive of the suggestion that we should start to think about adding XML  for some of  the brighter pupils, since "we don't teach hard coding".  The wind of change is now blowing!

Looking at the coding issue an article that seeks to address the issue ( of who is actually doing the teaching.  In the vacuum between out with the old in with the new of curriculum change some indutrial interests are getting involved.  One approach is Apps for Good where Dell apparently send people into secondary schools to help with the coding.  Mozilla is  there with Webmaster.  Scratch which I have mentioned in previous blogs is also mentioned.

A colection of websites for coding from the above article are below:
A visual programming language for children age 6 and up, developed at MIT. Allows users to create and share interactive games.
In-browser 'x-ray goggles' which allow you to see the HTML elements that make up every webpage - and lets you edit them yourself.
Code 'spellchecker' and preview window which makes web editing simple. Create your own functional page in minutes and host it online.
Hackety Hack
Learn the Ruby programming language from scratch with this free downloadable software.
Code Academy
Learn the basics of Javascript, Python and Ruby through these fun interactive online course. Suitable for teenagers and upwards.
Code School
More advanced tutorials in Ruby, Javascript and CSS design which allow you to share your progress with the coding community.
The idea of coding is a apparently a worthy aim to aspire to.  If the coding is hardware independent it has longevity.  In the last 16 years we have gone through many changes in the perception of the pint delivery of digital services. The ability to manipulate the hardware with coding skills is admirable but there needs to be a reason to do so.  Identification of computational skills as more important than actual programming skills is proposed in the blog  Essentially this is problem solving.  To access this requires probably stronger mathematical skills than some might have. This is possibly a push for the IT curriculum to be a part of the Maths curriculum and not a stand-alone subject!

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