Is a curriculum a why, a what or or a how? #digitalstudies #ictcurric

Have been thinking a lot more about the ICT curriculum and had a little Damascus moment earlier on. Often, when I have sat down trying to get thoughts clear about all this I find I get overly drawn to the “how” of teaching. This is fun, but ultimately back-to-front, I think. The why and the what should come first.

The first thing IT teachers need to agree on, I think, is the “why”. There needs to be a rationale to give it shape, to balance the competing claims of Computer Science, Digital Media, and Digital Literacy amongst others.

Next, we need to agree on the “what”. Given the rationale, what do we want students to learn? What attitudes, what skills, what knowledge? That, I think, is what we will be assessing the children on.

These two, by and large, are where I would expect schools to want to find some consensus and some comfort in numbers. But they are miles away from the “how”. I admit, I love the idea of schools doing hackdays, for instance, but that is my leaning. And to try to work backwards from “stuff I like” is not necessarily the most sensible approach. How these goals are achieved or organised can vary massively, from individual lesson plans like those being shared at #ictcurric, to the astonishing mindmaps of @teachesict suggested portfolio approaches like Brian’s. If you take a look at those resources, you can see that the how is a huge, flexible, customisable beast. It will, I suspect, and perhaps even should vary from school to school. It will depend on staff, on equipment, on children.

There is a huge amount of goodness to learn from all of the “how” resources, but I think the discussions would be most fruitfully centred on the why and the what. If we centre on the how, my fear is that we will spend too long discussing differences that we don;t need to be discussing.

Open IT

Like many people involved in IT in schools, I’m currently thrashing around trying to work out a sensible curriculum. Anyway, an “anonymous user” made a suggestion in the comments that sounded good. Why not use Google Moderator to try to collate as many people’s ideas, questions, concerns and thoughts on an IT curriculum?

I hadn’t heard of Moderator before – but if it’s good enough for the White House it’s good enough for me.

So without further ado, here’s the link:

If you know anyone in education, any interested students, any IT professionals, please let them know.


What to teach in IT? #ICTcurric #ICT500 #RethinkingICT #ukedchat

So a while ago Michael Gove said the current ICT Curriculum is being scrapped. To be honest, hooray. The current offering is dismal, almost unforgivably so. There already seem to be a bundle of energetic, committed characters looking to redraft a better one and in response to Chris and his call for ideas here are some first thoughts.

  1. Don’t call it ICT
  2. Pillars
  3. Structure
  4. Concerns

Don’t call it ICT.

I’d never heard of ICT before I became a teacher. I worked in IT in various capacities for 15 years before becoming a teacher and have an MSc in Computer Science. People work in IT. Please let’s call it that. Or pink elephants. Or anything that isn’t ICT


A ‘these truths I hold dear’ of sorts. Any IT curriculum should:

  1. be agnostic

    In terms of pedagogy, let’s specify goals not routes. In terms of tech, let’s do operating systems not Macs, spreadsheets not Excel, and principles not implementations. In terms of society, let’s be accessible to as many as humanly possible.

  2. be focused on learning.

    It should be designed in such a way that the teacher can learn with the students. Tech moves very quickly and I see no shame in being the most experienced learner rather than the font of all knowledge.

  3. be challenging.

    There is a fear that children know more than adults. Fine. But don’t teach them what is difficult for you if it is easy for them. Don’t do Dreamweaver till you’ve done HTML. See previous point!

  4. be varied.

    Not just computer science, not just playing around with media, not just anything.

  5. be relevant,

    to children and to industry.

  6. be a work in progress.

    Because to be relevant you have to be.

And by contrast, no IT curriculum should ever, ever be a slop-bucket for other subjects’ technical projects, “oh because, you know, it involves a computer and the internet”.


So what should the IT Curriculum contain? I’m jotting down notes here but I’d think the key strands could be something like:

  1. Computational Thinking

    This is an academic discipline in itself and has plenty of cross-curricular “oomph” especially with maths and sciences. In Google’s words, it “involves a set of problem-solving skills and techniques that software engineers use to write programs that underlie the computer applications you use”. In an IT Curriculum it could mean learning how to apply concepts such as abstraction, divide and rule etc. using software like Scratch, or building a basic app. It also provides a way to understand the hardware behind the software. Because it is an academic discipline, this can be as resource heavy or as resource light as one wants. If the budget allows, then Mindstorms , if not, then paper.

  2. Working Life

    This is essentially a pared down version of what the curriculum is now, i.e. training for the workplace. Topics might be email, search, browsers, databases, word processors, spreadsheets, project management tools, photo editors, movie editors, sound editors etc. The important point with all of these, I think, is to show the grammar behind the tools. File menus, windows … Again, build-in comparison. If you do Microsoft Word, do Google Docs too as a comparison. Be agnostic.

  3. Digital World

    This is essentially how 1 and 2 affect our lives. Topics might be: cybersafety, web design, information and truth, Open Source vs paid, connectivity vs influence, wisdom of crowds etc.

It’s probably a little OTT but I think these almost map onto Shannon and Weaver’s 3 modes of communication.

Concerns from #ukedchat

I had a look through Brian’s #ukedchat session and the following seemed to be the key concerns.

  • Funding.

    Many were understandably concerned about resources. I’m not sure industry would be “delighted” to help out and in a way I think focusing on large donations is a misuse of energies. Equally, there is a fount of free stuff “out there on the interweb”, from Operating Systems up. More interesting to me are projects like Computer Science in a Box and RaspberryPi

  • Assessment.

    This seemed a secondary school concern but I think it’s relevant to every level. The Hackday assessments sound intriguing, though I’m not sure I understand how they would work. More prosaically, there are the QTS style IT literacy tests to show you know how to use a word processor or a spreadsheet. There are project-based outcomes, for e.g. media related parts. And for the computational thinking elements, that could easily be done as a paper-based test. That’s just for the summative. I see the need but I’m not sure I see the problem.

  • Training staff.

    The concern here was how to get IT staff up to speed. It is astonishing how ossified people’s attitudes can be and I feel a bit stumped by this. Two points might mitigate it: first, by IT not simply being a glorified Microsoft Office training program they might take it more seriously; second, by making sure that an assessed part of the curriculum is ‘debugging’ in its broadest sense – how to know what to do when you don’t know how to do it (see e.g. this)


If you’re interested, some medium term plans are beginning, slowly, to take shape here:

Net Cetera – OnGuard Online

In Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online, OnGuard Online gives adults practical tips to help kids navigate the online world.

Kids and parents have many ways of socializing and communicating online, but they come with certain risks. This guide encourages parents to reduce the risks by talking to kids about how they communicate – online and off – and helping kids engage in conduct they can be proud of. Net Cetera covers what parents need to know, where to go for more information, and issues to raise with kids about living their lives online.

Source: here

Glogster – Poster Yourself

Glogster EDU is your original educational resource for innovative and interactive learning. Glogster EDU was conceived to imaginatively, productively, and collaboratively respond to the dynamic educational landscape and exceed the needs of today’s educators and learners. We value the participation of educators and strive to assimilate their contributions to Glogster EDU, Glogster EDU is yours! Educators from all over the world are integrating Glogster EDU’s resourceful platform to make traditional learning more dynamic, more interactive and more in tune with learners today. Most importantly Glogster EDU is FUN for teachers and learners alike!

Source: here