Develop your skills in ICT

4 Oct 2012

The way we teach ICT in schools is changing, but are we ready? Louisa Mellor examines the training, resources and support networks to help you prepare

After years of dissatisfaction with the ICT curricula from teachers, pupils and industry, the ICT community has finally been given the go-ahead to make changes. Between now and 2014, the ICT Programme of Study will be disapplied, liberating teachers to use their expertise to forge a new subject in which pupils learn to use computers to create, instead of consume.

At least, that’s the theory, and a fine one it is too. But for the estimated two-thirds of ICT teachers who are neither subject specialists nor hobbyist coders, this period of innovation is as daunting as it is exciting.

Jane Evershed, a 14+ ICT curriculum specialist, described how the sigh of relief from teachers finally granted the freedom to redesign their subject was quickly replaced by a sigh of dismay. This was caused, she says, by “the realisation of the potential speed of the U-turn and the colossal up-skilling changes that they will need in order to make it anything like a reality”.

Develop your skills in ICT

Helping to make it a reality is the goal of the next few pages, which will point you towards the training opportunities, resources and peer support networks available for ICT teachers wishing to develop their subject skills.

For every inspiring computing studies evangelist who’s spent the past six months setting up curriculum design wikis and organising hack days, there are a dozen ICT teachers feeling bewildered by what lies ahead. If you’re among those wondering where to begin acquiring the necessary skills to teach the revamped curricula, then read on.

New skills

Whatever uncertainties there are about what the eventual Programme of Study for ICT will include, the broad direction is clear: creative coding and physical computing are in; coaching pupils to tap away in Microsoft Office is out.

Like many ICT teachers, Carmelina Niles of the John Fisher School in Purley, Surrey, is neither from a programming background, nor has she ever taught computing science, so admits to feeling “a little worried” about the new skills demands. “I realise it’s essential I move my students towards the programming and CS side of using technology and that I have to move away from just teaching the applications side of ICT.”

Develop your skills in ICT

Niles is certainly not alone in feeling apprehensive about acquiring new subject skills, and if you share her concerns, you can follow her proactive example: “I have rejoined NAACE [the ICT association], joined CAS [Computing At School] and have found an amazing amount of materials and interesting reading; it’s refreshing my perspective.”

While retraining will be an inevitable part of the coming months for many ICT teachers, it’s important to be realistic about what’s achievable. Nobody is expected to master the intricacies of C++ over half-term or to spend every lunch- break from here to 2014 learning every possible use for an Arduino. Set small goals, surround yourself with supportive peers, and see what works for you.

Alan O’Donohoe, principal teacher of ICT at Our Lady’s High School in Preston, Lancashire, calls the current offering of potential languages, teaching and learning tools “an overcrowded supermarket. Part of the problem is that there is so much choice out there that people don’t know which way to go. Start off by finding a language you hear people talking about, try it, perfect it, see how it works in your classroom, see how the children react to it; if you’re not getting the right response, then go and find the next thing. For me, the two that I’ve taken are Scratch and Python.”

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