Taking the C out of ICT

By: Karyn Christner
  The title of this post comes from a presentation made by David Anstead at the Naace Strategic Conference in March 2010. To summarise, David’s most contentious suggestion is that we should remove the C (communication) element of ICT. His reasoning for this is that research by Ofsted  has suggested that the ‘communication  and presentation’ element of the ICT curriculum is being over-emphasised in schools and that other elements of ‘data-logging’, ‘control technology’ and ‘using spreadsheets’, were being overlooked. My inference from his presentation was that if we removed the (C)ommunication aspects, we would have more time to devote to those other aspects. My first reaction upon seeing the graphs that Ofsted produce to show that Communication and Presentation is being fully covered is to take a moment to congratulate schools, staff and pupils for this achievement. Ofsted’s initial response appears to be that we should look at the other aspects of ICT and remove the emphasis upon Communication and Presentation. When I put this suggestion to teachers, that we should remove ‘communication and presentation’, they were surprised and horrified, saying things like ‘but that’s the best bit’. My own feeling is that if my learners were doing really well in a topic, would I want to stop doing that topic or would I want to stretch it further?  If my learners consistently did well, might it not be an indication  that I am not stretching them, not challenging them enough and not maintaining their interest? In which case, would it not be better to challenge them and stretch them further to regain interest and raise their achievements? Or should I just stop? Something that has me worried about the findings that Ofsted present is that in their report it indicates that the over-emphasis upon Communication and Presentation is evident in schools where ICT provision is weak; “The Importance of ICT” page 13 para 23. So it appears that this is not quite a common occurrence or one that can be observed equally across all schools but one where the indicators are skewed by the findings in schools with weak ICT provision. In the light of this paragraph, I’d venture to suggest that the course of approach might not be to remove the Communication and presentation aspect of the ICT curriculum but to seek to strengthen the provision of ICT within these weak schools. David did support his argument at the conference with a quotation, apparent from a pupil, along the lines of ‘my brother did programming but all we get is PowerPoint’. I seriously doubt the validity of that quotation, had it read ‘father’ instead of ‘brother’ it might have been more accurate as I don’t think ‘programming’ has been taught on any large scale within school curricula for many years. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel there is something behind the message that David is giving us here. Pupils do seem to be bored with the ICT curriculum and with powerpoint presentations and probably do want something that engages and challenges them more. In my schooldays or my father’s schooldays, we were inspired to become train drivers or pilots, if I were at school today I guess I might be inspired to become a website designer, a computer games programmer or a designer of apps for mobile devices. Does our current ICT curriculum meet the needs of such aspirations? I seem to detect a groundswell of opinion in favour of emphasising ICT as a separate subject, giving learners ‘computer skills’ and knowledge of how computers work. This would be distinguished from using technology as a tool to help teach across all subjects. Perhaps Ofsted’s argument is feeding into this viewpoint. However, if we remove the Communication and Presentation aspects, can we honestly say that what is left of the ICT curriculum will give learners the skills and knowledge they seek? I remain unconvinced that taking the C out of ICT is the right approach. If the over-emphasis upon communication is most marked in schools where ICT provision is weak, then surely the emphasis should be upon strengthening the ICT provision in those schools. If it remains that Communication and Presentation is well taught in schools, then let’s praise that fact and seek to build upon  it by stretching and challenging our learners further and raising their achievements. There is much about communication that is not taught in our schools, such as utilising web2.0 tools, web3.0 and other emerging technologies. Above all, there is more to presentation than PowerPoint. Equally, if we are to give our learners tools they need for the 21st Century then we need to re-examine our ICT curriculum and the ICT skills we teach and require of our learners, simply taking parts out cannot be the answer. The Importance of ICT. Ofsted report

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