Are we falling into the ICT trap?

So I’ve just come back from a Brilliant Day (and night) at the CAS Conference. This is my third year and each year I approach the event with a new thought of what I want to learn. This year, it was my focus on not what i teach (languages etc.) but the way I teach.

The keynote speakers that we had were brilliant, a speaker from Google and Lee Stott from Microsoft about the projects they are currently running in order to get students involved in programming.

What struck me was 2 things:

  • there is a lot of fear out there about learning to program
  • there are so many tools out there we have to be careful what we choose to use.

I think these 2 things together could be a double edged sword that Computing/programming must be careful of when walking that line.  There are a number of ICT Teachers without the requisite skills to program and need to learn, however there are also A LOT of very simple programming tools that get you started, but if you use these beyond the starting point you end up with a culture shift.

I think at this point we need to be careful. Let’s be under no mistake PROGRAMMING IS HARD, and there are a number of ways to introduce the topic, but if you use the tools beyond the engagement point, you have to make sure you apply the rigor to it or make the end product a joke.

The ICT Failure
We all complain about the failure of ICT and it becoming too easy. I remember in 2006 when i was a tech a teacher abandoning HTML for Dreamweaver on the basis they had to make a website and Dreamweaver was “faster and easier”. We could quickly fall into this trap with programming, making tools to make coding easier then in 5 years complaining that programming has become too easy and we are in danger of being dropped from the curriculum.

I love the IDEA of tools like blockly, but I think there has to be a culture shift from the big companies and product developers. CAS has it right, let’s focus on the education of the teachers first and make sure we have qualified, trained teachers to make sure the subject is rigorous and challenging with the right teachers to teach it.

Addendum 25/6/13: How do I teach

Speaking to people tonight at a CPD for CAS in Preston, I was thinking how I wrote this. It’s true (guilty smile), I work in a good school and this is great because (most) students will (generally) try no matter what you throw at them. But I think with programming (and any subject for that matter) you have to find a way to engage every student in the class, take them on the journey with you.

I don’t want to make the programming language so simple that everyone in the class can do it first time, every time. I want to be able to teach so that the hard language is accessible to everyone.   Using tools such as CSInside and CSUnplugged, which helps break down topics into smaller ones can help with this. I guess my aim as a teacher is not to get every student to be good at every topic, but to introduce those topics, get them to engage, and allow them to learn for themselves outside of the classroom. Yes, this takes more time and planning for differentiation, but I find this to be one of the most fun parts of teaching, coming at a topic sideways to come up with an interesting idea that will engage and excite my students.

I also would love to talk about the CAS “Master Teacher” role, but think I’ll leave that for later.


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