I have two conflicting views on top-down decisions in organizations like schools:
- sometimes the PHB messes up everything, or
- sometimes it’s necessary to break things.
School’s out on this one, literally. The UK is commanding a new curriculum in high school: More on a deeper understanding of how computers work and less on running non-Free software like that other OS, its office suite, PhotoShop TM etc. That makes sense to me. Throwing a bunch of teachers off the end of the dock to teach them to swim is doubtful. That technique works for technological sponges like me but good teachers who have been “preparing students for the workplace” may or may not do a good job of getting down to basics.
I rejoiced when the Western Canadian Provinces got together and revised the maths curriculum to use computers and calculators in teaching. I had been using computers in that role for 25 years but most teachers had never done it. They took two years of “professional development” to indoctrinate the teachers. The UK has given the teachers just months for radical change. I predict “uneven” results…
In ICT courses in Canada I have always been giving students the basics. I stretched “how to sit at a PC and turn it on” into disassembly/reassembly of ATX PCs with nomenclature and on-line shopping for parts… Instead of teaching them how to use M$’s office suite, I gave students a list of tasks to do with five different office suites and asked them to compare ease and performance. Instead of teaching students 300 features of Excel TM, I gave them real-world problems that could be solved several ways with spreadsheets and computer programming and had them learn the kinds of things that were better done with different methods. I exposed students to several spreadsheets and, yes, paper and pencil… Instead of limiting students to one PC with one hard drive, I showed them what they could do with thin clients, servers and clusters of servers, databases and web applications…
There’s just no reason to limit students to using pre-installed software from one supplier. I showed students how to install GNU/Linux on a PC and network several PCs. I had every student at least understand the basics of computer programming a few steps past “Hello, World!”. They all got to see how incredibly fast computers are compared to any other means of creating, finding, storing and presenting information.
Well, now the UK will catch up to my classroom. I hope my province pays attention. Manitoba is about ten years behind Alberta and Alberta is mostly fixated on M$’s stuff. Many jurisdictions still treat mathematics as a mental exercise and not something used to solve real problems. Many jurisdictions treat ICT as preparation to walk on the Wintel treadmill.
“Schools, he said, needed to ditch lessons on how to use Powerpoint in favour of getting the kids designing apps and learning to code.
The speech took ICT teachers by surprise and many are still no clearer about what is expected of them when schools return for a new academic year.”
I recommend schools use Debian GNU/Linux to teach ICT. It has a huge repository of Free Software meaning schools and students can install software on any number of PCs without restriction. There’s plenty of software there for anything in the new curriculum and tools to create more software.