Monday, 8 December 2008

Computer skills should be given more importance

A report at Becta says that today's increasingly computer-literate youngsters are improving their ICT skills so fast there is a strong argument they should be taught secondary school knowledge earlier at primary school.

This insight into the fast-developing skills of England's techno-savvy minors by education expert Sir Jim Rose is one of the key findings of the interim report of his independent primary curriculum review published on Monday, 8 December 2008.

He says in his report that primary and secondary ICT needs to be reviewed "to provide a better fit with children's developing abilities" so that English education does not get left behind by the technology revolution. He wants ICT to be given as much priority in the primary school curriculum as literacy and numeracy.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls, responding to the interim report, said 21st century schools needed to adapt to the times and make the most of technology to improve our children's learning.

Examples of the kind of things our hi-tech high-flyers might do at primary rather than wait for secondary:

  • Using podcasts in their studies or making their own radio programmes
  • Using ICT to produce well-presented essays and presentations on screen that they can share with the class or whole school
  • Uploading their artwork on computers
  • Testing rules and values by using formulas and spreadsheets for science and maths
  • Discussing the use and impact of technology on society
  • Analysing different sources online, e.g. for history subjects
  • Helping their research skills for different topics, eg world geography, maps and weather forecasts
  • Using the internet to share projects with other schools.

Sir Jim Rose said:
"Good primary teaching deepens children's understanding by firing their imagination and interest in learning. One highly promising route to meeting the demand for in-depth teaching and learning is undoubtedly emerging through ICT. The primary curriculum needs to be forward-looking. Advances in technology and the internet revolution are driving a pace of change which we could not have imagined when the National Curriculum was introduced twenty years ago."

Ed Balls said:
"We can sometimes under-estimate children's knowledge of ICT and that can be a missed opportunity to raise standards at primary schools. As Sir Jim's interim report points out, by age 11 children could already be using their computer skills to boost their studies across the curriculum. In maths, primary children are advanced enough to use technology to improve their learning rather than just play computer games, for example. Parents of our generation probably don't realise how fast children are picking up computer skills today. In our day computers were probably a novelty for older children in secondary school children whereas today they're commonplace. Teaching and the curriculum need to move with the times. We need 21st century schools which make the most of the opportunities technology offers to improve our children's learning."

Stephen Crowne, Chief Executive of Becta, said:
"There’s no question that technology plays an increasing part of our everyday life at home and school. Clear evidence shows effective use of technology really does boost a child's achievement."

Sir Jim Rose says in his report that ICT has the unique capacity to develop and enliven learning and in some schools ICT is not "working hard enough" to support learning and provide value for money. He believes that much of the ICT currently taught at Key Stage 3 in secondary school should be taught in primary school instead because it is "well within the capabilities" of primary children. Instead, by the time children reach Key Stage 3 they should not only be able to show ICT skills but also be already able to apply these skills across the curriculum to advance their learning.

The interim review report also says that ICT should be used more by primary teachers to give the required "depth" to lessons, so teachers can meet the pace and appetite for learning of the most able children and they are not held back.

Jim Rose makes a lot of sense here and it's about time someone said it. The ICT curriculum urgently needs updating and I hope it happens soon. Computer skills are essential in today's world.

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