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Thursday, 25 October 2012

TechHeads, EdTech, & BSC Entrepreneurs

I attended my first ever meeting at the London branch of the BCS - Chartered Institute for IT. Just going to the London office made me very excited as you could imagine. I was there to attend the TechHead's meeting on the proposals for the new Ebacc (which is going to include IT... possibly... at this point who knows?) and a panel of speakers were explaining the opportunities to developer/IT start-ups that may be interested in developing products, resources etc to aid teachers.

I was invited along by Edward Baker, the organiser who, like many of us have been saying for a while, there needs to be a meeting of minds between the teaching community and the developer community. TechHeads is the name of the community he has created.

The panel of speakers at this event consisted of the fabulous Tony Parkin, Educational Technologist and self proclaimed disruptive nostalist @tonyparkin who talked about the problems that may arise from having ICT included in the new ebacc, Sue Street a Naace Fellow, national leader of ICT, and teacher, who rightfully said that she was concerned that including computer science so heavily in the new ebacc program of study could cause creativity to be pushed into a corner and forgotten about. Bill Mitchell, Director of the British Computer Society who explained a bit of the history of what had happened and why there is suddenly so much fuss over our subject. He talked about the new plans to stop all teacher training of ICT and the £20,000 incentive for CS graduates to take up teaching (Grrr.. where's *my* £20,000 for being an awesome teacher of ICT?) Bill also mentioned that the first draft of the ICT ebacc program of study had been delivered to Gove and that it takes up two sides of A4. Neil Mclean, Head of FutureLab Research Center, and Chris Johnson Principle moderator of ICT GCSE for OCR were also speakers and panelists.

I realize that the target audience of these talks were the developers, however I felt that many of the speakers played into the media and governments false perception that all ICT teachers are lazy idiots who know nothing about computer science and do not care about teaching it well. I got quite frustrated during the talks and was super happy when a fellow ICT teacher said during the Q&A everything that I was feeling. There is a danger here that meetings like this are going to alienate the very people who have worked hard, and are working hard to improve ICT teaching in the UK. I'm not saying that all teachers are great, but I know for a fact that there is some outstanding work going on in this country.

One issue that I think it being overlooked is that of time. I can teach anything, but until ICT is given more than 50 mins per week on the curriculum, it will not be taken seriously as an important subject. I am in a carousel with Music, DT and HE. History gets double the amount of time, and Core subjects like Maths, Eng and Science get four times the amount. The argument is not solely what we are teaching but how much time we have to teach.

The state of computer networks within schools is another major issue for improving the way ICT is perceived as a subject. The computers in my school are 8 years old, using software that is three versions out of date. Many programs we use (not Microsoft!) struggle to run. This is one of the reasons that the Raspberry Pi is so attractive as a low cost product that allows us teachers to bypass the network. Any new curriculum needs to take into consideration the condition of many school networks.

Anyway, That's my moan!

I'm really excited that the BCS are reaching out to the developer community, and I had a great chat with some people afterwards about helping them with anything they've got planned. I'm happy to test any ideas with classrooms full of students if it helps developers and teachers come together. I'm convinced, through my own work with the Python Community that working together can help teachers teach better, give developers a voice about what they think needs to be taught, and give students backup and inspiration to go forward.

If you are a teacher, a developer, someone who is interested in the opportunities that the new programs of study for ICT provide and want some input from grass roots teachers like me, please get in touch. We are all working towards the same goal.

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