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.
Recently I posted a proposal for structuring an ICT curriculum around four separate strands. These are Digital Literacy, Digital Creativity, Computing and Digital Citizenship. I got a pretty good response from a couple of peers on Twitter and now I’m looking to take this process of developing these strands to the next stage by starting to focus on what each strand should mean.
For each strand I would like to develop the following:
- A definition of what that strand means and its impact on the pupils
- Examples of work and resources related to that strand
- Supporting material and sources
The definition is obviously the key aim here and through it I hope to be able to provide something on which I can then hang each of the units of work which pupils do throughout their school career. The definition does not need to be outright academic in nature as both parents and pupils should be able to read it and understand it.
I have therefore created a Google docs presentation through which myself and another member of staff at my school who handles the junior school ICT are going to begin to develop a set of definitions. However I would very much welcome any input from others as well so if you would like access to edit please let me know on twitter.
I finally got a response back from the TPU member I have been talking to. Admittedly the delay was mostly my fault and Austen at the TPU has been very kind in bearing with me.
My criticism of the following as being a disappointing response is not directed at him so much as directed at general failure in government policy in actually taking some leadership. Essentially the response below boiled down to … we are the remnants of Becta, we have a policy statement coming at some point in the future and our Secretary of State says that mobiles and cameras are bad and we should all be using iTunes a bit more.
Slightly underwhelmed and not sure how I should respond. I’m considering inviting Austen to teachmeet at Bett next year but beyond that I don’t know. I will say that there are many people who I converse with on Twitter who could probably make a far better fist of creating government policy. The only problem is not having any funding or support to do so – but then we aren’t the people who founded the New Schools Network are we …
Please see below answers to your questions. Best wishes Austen
Q1: Are you able to define the remit of the Technology Policy Unit and if so what is it?
The Technology Policy Unit is responsible for providing policy advice on technology in schools. It was set up following the closure of Becta and transfer of some Becta functions in-house within the department. The Unit supports the effective use of technology to enable schools, improve teaching standards and meet the department’s wider objectives.
Q2: Will there be a forthcoming policy document on the use of Technology in Schools and if so when is it expected?
I would draw your attention to this article http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=17320 where the Secretary of State indicated some more information would be made available in the autumn
Q3: I am sure that you have some contact already with relevant individuals or organisations advising you on issues to do with edtech but would it be possible to open up that consultation to wider groups of teachers and others who work in the field through channels such as Teachmeets or online chats?
Over the past few months, we have been engaging with partners in education, research, business, academia, HE and industry. Not long ago, we met with the leading leader’s network who are a network of school leaders who excel in the leadership, management and use of technology) as part of this process. As things continue to develop we expect to continue to engage a wide range of interested parties through different channels
Q4: Lastly in response to the article listed below (which I now appeared in various forms in a number of publications) I would like to know how is the DfE and the TPU going to reassure schools that oyu do have a policy – especially in light of general department approach to policy.
I would again draw your attention to this article http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=17320 where the Secretary of State indicated some more information would be made available in the autumn
From: Brian Sharland
Sent: 10 October 2011 12:46
To: OKONWEZE, Austen
Subject: Finally got round to getting back in touch with you
I hope you are well. As you can well imagine new babies and the start of term do not mix very well …
If you are still keen on answering a few questions about the TPU that would be really appreciated.
1. Are you able to define the remit of the Technology Policy Unit and if so what is it?
2. Will there be a forthcoming policy document on the use of Technology in Schools and if so when is it expected?
3. I am sure that you have some contact already with relevant individuals or organisations advising you on issues to do with edtech but would it be possible to open up that consultation to wider groups of teachers and others who work in the field through channels such as Teachmeets or online chats?
4. Lastly in response to the article listed below (which I now appeared in various forms in a number of publications) I would like to know how is the DfE and the TPU going to reassure schools that oyu do have a policy – especially in light of general department approach to policy.
Thanks Austen – I hope the above are clear and I look forward to hearing from you
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Over the last few months I have been in contact with an Austen Okenweze of the Technology Policy Unit at the DfE. (see http://briansharland.com/continuing-the-edtechcampaign-and-my-contact) Recently my daughter arrived so I have taken a break from this until now.
Austen and I had been trying to setup a meeting between myself and one or two twitter contacts and himself either in London or in Coventry but due to scheduling conflicts (apparently DfE personnel don't work during school holidays – do they not realise how much work teachers do during holidays?) we have been unable to setup a meeting. I have suggested to Austen that we initiate some digital contact hopefully leading to him taking part in an online meeting such as #ukedchat or a Google hangouts chat.
I will therefore be emailing him again to set out a first set of questions to him to start eliciting some information regarding the technology policy unit. I think this may be an ongoing process which could hopefully yield some positive results.
So what should I be contacting him about?
I think the easiest thing to do is start with fairly straightforward issues mixed with some key concerns.
On the fairly straightforward questions I will asking Austen the following:
- Are you able to define the remit of the Technology Policy Unit and if so what is it?
- Will there be a forthcoming policy document on the use of Technology in Schools and if so when is it expected?
- I am sure that you have some contact already with relevant individuals or organisations advising you on issues to do with edtech but would it be possible to open up that consultation to wider groups of teachers and others who work in the field through channels such as Teachmeets or online chats?
- Lastly in response to the article listed below (which I now appeared in various forms in a number of publications) I would like to know if schools can expect detailed guidelines rather than a hands off approach evidenced by other policy decisions by the DfE
Comments always welcome
Some of you I know are following what seems to be a developing 'campaign' with the DfE (or at least a good opportunity to open some dialogue with them).
After a short 'holiday' I was prompted to get cracking with something so I have written a very short email to Austen at the Technology Policy Unit introducing myself and seeing whether we can open a line of conversation. Obviously if I get anything back I will blog it.
In the meantime I have begun to think about what policies or issues should be brought up if I am able to begin a dialogue with the members of the Technology Policy Unit. This may be a good way of being able to frame discussion and measure progress. This list should be a short one as I think it would be a wise idea to avoid the political version of development-hell which would therefore be 'campaign-creep'
This therefore is my list of issues so far:
- ICT to be incorporated in a future DfE method for measuring schools (future ebaccs basically)
- ICT skills to be re-incorporated into required skills for Teachers
- In light of DfE comments about more autonomy for schools I feel they should be pushed into acknowledging that they need to educate schools in being autonomous and therefore when it comes to issues like usage of technology and information services online schools should be made aware of the fact that they can now push forward with the usage of this technology (eg YouTube)
That should be it for now
I wish to firstly say thank you to @jamesmichie, @daviderogers, @joga5 and @grumbledook for your help in drafting the letter below. I apologise if I have not been able to include everything (partly due to length) and also partly because I am trying to maintain a positive line without hitting the DfE over the head with what they should be doing. After all I am not a full time campaigner so in a sense I am simply trying to fulfill what I think is an appropriate philosophy in life that sometimes one needs to action. I do hope that something positive will come out of this as I see this letter as something to hopefully force that crack a little wider (but probably fantasising!)
Anyways here is the full text of the letter plus the signatories – their contact details have been removed from this post for obvious reasons. I do need more signatories though! DM me what you would like added under your name for contact details. As for the letter itself I think it is complete. I even have posh konqueror paper to print it on as well!
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.