Nick Gibb MP
Minister of State for Schools
Department for Education
Castle View House
Dear Nick Gibb,
I am writing on behalf of a small group of colleagues at other institutuons in the UK in response to comments made by Michael Gove to the Royal Society on Maths and Science on the 29th of June 2011. We are all in one way or another deeply involved with the use of technology in our workplaces and we all are motivated to see technology and digital resources used effectively within schools. We would like to comment specifically on the section on 'Harnessing Technology within the classroom' contained within the speech and its implications for the educational technology community. We feel that writing to yourself as the Minister in charge of the reform of the National Curriculum is the best course of action for ensuring an effective response.
On the one hand we welcome the positive comments Mr Gove has made regarding the use of technology in a classroom however we are dismayed at the fact that this is as far as we can tell the first time Mr Gove has made substantive comments on this issue. Furthermore we feel that his comments on certain aspects of technology usage raises further concerns which are highlighted below.
Mr Gove begins by stating that ' We need to change curricula, tests and teaching to keep up with technology, and technology itself is changing curricula, tests, and teaching.' Although we welcome a drive by the DfE to acknowledge the role of technology in teaching and learning we see no evidence to indicate that this is taking place or will be taking place. On the contrary with the closure of Becta and an extremely poor lack of resources on the usage of ICT to support learning in the classroom supplied by the DfE we feel that your words are not being backed up by actions. We note in particular that searching for ICT on the DfE website produces a result for 'Using ICT to support teaching and learning' which when clicked leads to an error page. This lack of thought for a valuable and motivated community of educators is worrying especially as there are many ICT, Computing and other teachers skilled in the usage of ICT who could contribute to effective teaching and learning of all subjects across a school curriculum.
We welcome the mention of iTunesU and the Khan academy as two examples of high quality resources available for pupils in schools. However this raises further issues which Mr Gove may not have been aware of. The Khan Academy delivers its content through YouTube videos and the vast majority of maintained schools do not allow access to YouTube in the classroom for pupils and even teachers to use. iTunesU as a content delivery network is also difficult to implement as the devices which would be useful for accessing them which are the range of mobile devices made by Apple including the iPhone are not allowed for usage in the classroom. These and other information services if used properly though can have an impact on pupil literacy in a wide range of subjects.
We also welcome the mention of computer games based learning to deliver subject material. This is something which many of us are quite supportive of as it is a useful tool for delivering not just Science and Maths but also other subject material such as English, History and Geography. Computer games based learning can also teach analytical and thought processing skills such as design, requirements analysis, iteration and basic logic skills. We note the mention of foreign institutions providing the lead on the development of programmes for usage in class however we would have liked to see the mention or inclusion of some of the work which is being done locally to meet the needs of pupils in the UK such as JISC or Futurelab. The inclusion of Marcus Du Sautoy in his comments was good to see though.
In conclusion we would like to pick up on the concluding paragraph of the section on Technology:
"These developments are only beginning. They must develop on the ground – Whitehall must enable these innovations but not seek to micromanage them. The new environment of teaching schools will be a fertile ecosystem for experimenting and spreading successful ideas rapidly through the system."
The positive nature of what he had to say was encouraging however we would now like to see actions by the DfE to back up Mr Gove's words. Mr Gove stated he has no wish to micromanage however at least some management and direction on the usage of technology and digital resources would be welcome from the DfE to ensure that Heads and senior leadership teams recognise government backing for the work we do in our own schools. We would also welcome further clarification on legal issues surrounding the usage and purchase of technology to support learning in schools.
Finally as educators we are already spreading successful ideas on the use of technology in schools through various channels such as Twitter, Teachmeet's and regular works of collaboration online. We therefore would welcome the opportunity to meet with yourself and some of your colleagues to discuss and demonstrate some of the collaborative work we do as teachers to support our craft as well as some of the work and learning methods which our own pupils produce and use in class. We are motivated by seeing our pupils deepen their digital literacy in meaningful ways which will lead to constructive use of the technology available in society and ultimately lead to improvements in their own attainment.
The following individuals of asked for their name and personal information to be attached to the letter as fellow signatories. Their signatures are absent as they are spread across the UK.