Over the last few months I have been very slowly working on a new curriculum for ICT at my school. Following on from inspiration gleaned from a number of other people (@mwclarkson, @chrisleach28 and @jpgreenwood in particular) I have written four strands for a new curriculum.
1. Digital literacy2. Digital creativity3. Digital technology4. Digital citizenship
Each strand looks at a different aspect of ICT and I think complement each other very nicely. However they suffer from a small problem. Although they incorporate much of what a modern up to date ICT teacher should be teaching it is still known as the ‘ICT’ curriculum and reading any number of current stories emanating from the government about the teaching of ICT one gets the impression the name of the subject has a tarnished reputation.
Under the circumstances I think what is called for is not just a renaming of the subject but a rebranding of ICT. To me when you rename something it simply carries on doing the same job as before but using a diffent title, much the same way as a sports stadium does after it gets named after a corporate sponsor.
A rebranding gives something not only a new name but also a new purpose and direction. Now much of this new purpose for ICT does seem to be developing through the push to include computer science and coding as key components to the curriculum. This is all well and good but the subject may very well still be called ICT which has its problems of connotations with simply learning clerical MS office skills. Of course ICT may simply be dropped and pupils start learning Computer Studies but even then that subject has I think it’s negative connotations of being too geeky, insular and lacking the breadth to deal with topical issues in ICT which impact on society.
What I therefore propose is to ignore both names and create a rebranded subject known as #digital. It will include much of what was good about ICT and factor in the coding which will become a very necessary part of the future. It gives us as teachers of the subject the chance to throw off the negativity surrounding ICT and establish it as a strong and relevant subject for schools to teach.
But why choose the name #digital? For starters when I looked up the definition of digital again in google I got the response “Involving or relating to the use of computer technology: “the digital revolution”". I liked this immensely as this is very much about establishing a revolution in how computer technology is taught in schools. The other definition supplied by google related to digital signalling and this also makes the use of the term relevant as ultimately the subject #digital is about teaching pupils how to understand as much as possible about how simple digital technology works (even down to the signalling) and how it impacts the analogue world surrounding it.
#digital as a name is short, punchy and moves past the clunkiness of Information, Communication and Technology. It ties in nicely with the names of the strands and provides a useful framework for defining multiple elements of the subject. By incorporating the hashtag at the front it captures the ‘zeitgeist’ of the moment which is a world dominated fairly extensively by social networking.
I think taking a bold and daring approach like this could be a useful way to kickstart a new era of teaching the ‘geek’ stuff to a generation who themselves are coming into our lessons increasingly clued up on computers.
ADDENDUM: The majority of the above blog post was written yesterday morning before I had a further conversation on twitter last night with @largerama. Nick liked the idea of #digital but suggested Digital Studies instead (or #digitalstudies …). I think this is a very useful suggestion as it makes it sound a lot better for practical reasons eg a pupil saying “I have digital studies in period 5″ instead of “I have digital in period 5″. I guess I was just trying to establish a single word name for the subject like Maths or English. I thought I would at least leave the blog post above unedited as it contains much of what will work for the name #digitalstudies just as much as it would work for #digital.
I realised yesterday I hadn't actually posted my definition for my digital creativity strand. This was quite an easy strand to write as the topic speaks for itself really.
At our school we recognise that technology and digital tools can be used as a creative tool as well. The basis of many arts today rely on the effective usage of digital tools to create a product whether it is audio editing, movie computer effects or photo editing. Digital tools can also be used to create new art forms as well.
We therefore feel it is important to not only provide experience in as many different digital creativity fields as possible but seek to encourage pupils to develop their own talents and ideas using digital tools for creativity.
I have now finally got round to writing my first version of what I think the digital citizenship strand should be. I struggled a bit with this one but eventually finished it by focussing on what I thought are the important parts of digital citizenship; e-safety, communication skills and legal rights.
The next stage now is to start thinking about topics for each strand. I have a list of topics which @ChrisLeach78
has developed for his prep school ICT curriculum which also uses similar strands (and is very well worth a look)
. I will start to extend these topic lists as my curriculum needs to extend into secondary school as well.
At our school we recognise that pupils should not only be taught how to use technology but also how to use technology appropriately in society. Pupils should understand that online communications whether from an individual or an organisation or government can have both a positive and a negative impact on themselves and society. They should also understand that they themselves can contribute to society through their own communications online.
Through the three other strands pupils will be producing digital products. In this strand pupils will explore how their work is legally protected but also how to use legally acceptable work produced by others. Pupils will understand their digital rights online but will also be expected to learn about the the digital rights of others.
Here is my next definition in my work on my version of an ICT curriculum. Originally I had called this strand simply Computing however after reading some of the work @chrisleach78 is doing on his own version of the ICT curriculum strands where he has defined it as Digital Technology I can see how this would open up the strand to focus a lot more on other aspects of pure technology development, functionality and usage. Accordingly after doing a little bit further reading up I now have a definition of Digital Technology I am happy with as a first version. Opinions and comments always welcome.
At our school we recognise that pupils will be using hardware and software throughout their career and will need to understand how that technology and hardware works. However in order to become proficient users of technology pupils should also understand how systems work and are built and also how to design, build and improve systems themselves.
Our pupils are therefore taught the basics of programming, networking and how to build a computer. These skills are applied in relevant contexts to show pupils the relevance of these skills.
Recently I have been posting on my work on rewriting my own ICT curriculum to fit within four learning strands. As part of that work I have been starting to write my own definitions of each strand before linking units with those strands. After spending some time reading some work on digital literacy (mostly @dajbelshaw's presentations and a bit of his thesis – for which I am indebted) I have written the following definition of digital literacy. This is a first draft and will be discussed with my own department however any online comment would be very welcome.
At our school we recognise that we need to prepare pupils for a digital world through a sustained engagement with technology and media relevant to their context. We show pupils how to use digital tools to control their relationship with the digital world. Pupils develop cognitive skills that enable them to process both the information they encounter online and the tools they need to make sense of that information and produce their own information. Units of work which form a part of the Digital Literacy strand are designed to meet these needs through challenging and engaging work which seeks to produce pupils who are literate in digital technology and relevant processing and thinking skills.
Recently I cam across a fantastic post by @mwclarkson on thoughts on ICT and Computing which was a fantastic examination of some of the issues facing ICT as we seek to improve its value to the outside world. Contained within his post was a reflection on possible strands of ICT, Digital Literacy, Digital Creativity and Programming. I like what is implied by these strands immensely especially as I have been fed up with National Curriuclum Strands for a while and have been seeking a better way to ‘tie’ the ICT curriculum together. For too long I feel the subject of ICT has been a random collection of boring skills based units and having a structure like this could help improve its standing in schools.
The strands I am proposing based on Mark’s original three are:
- Digital Creativity
- Digital Literacy
- Digital Citizenship
Digital Creativity I foresee as your multimedia strand. This is where pupils would be blogging, podcasting, video editing, website building etc. There will almost certainly be aspects of digital creativity which could include programming for instance in building a computer game from scratch.
Digital Literacy is a fairly broader strand and at the moment could possibly encompass multiple aspects of current ICT practice. I would possibly summarise it at this point as teaching pupils the skills to be able to engage with, respond and use technology they encounter in class in a way which would provide value to them.
Computing is a strand I will need to work a bit on to see how I can include it within my ICT curriculum. I think for the future it will be found within other units such as games design.
Digital Citizenship is inspired by the rise of social networks as a force to not necessarily directly change governments but a force which can assist in revolutions such as Tunisia and Egypt. Blogging may very well form a part of this but certainly looking at how ICt and the usage of technologies can be force for good would form a part of this strand.
My next job is to start writing good definitions of each strand to be used in planning and then mapping my existing units to each strand.