Wasted talent

Marking some GCSE coursework the other day has really unsettled me. For those unfamiliar with the Edexcel spec students have to come up with a problem and then find the solution. As part of the Analyse section (pt. 2 of 5) pupils have to specify hardware and software, describe data flow and various other things.

This pupil in particular has gone beyond saying that the computer used in the final solution will have to be connected to the Internet and explained that cable would be preferable to ADSL as there are no issues of speed drop-off caused by the distance from the exchange. He also specified Windows XP using x86 architecture rather than a Mac as he is not as well versed in OS X and would eventually like to migrate to a Linux distro, probably based on Red Hat/Fedora.

The pupil in question is clearly wasting his time with an ICT GCSE as his abilities and interests reach far beyond the very limited scope of the exam board. While this guy is happily off writing his own macros in VBA rather than recording a simple print macro with the rest of the class he will gain no better marks and will have to spend many tedious hours describing what he already knows. When asked if he’s interested in extra curricular activites such as Java Programming he doesn’t really show much interest. He clearly does have an interest in computing but I suspect that the lack of opportunity to use/test/expand his knowledge at GCSE has turned him off completely. It’s a terrible shame and I just can’t help thinking that I’m failing him by not providing him with the opportunities he needs.

During lessons he rarely speaks, especially with the rest of the rowdy, mixed ability bunch. Any ideas how to engage him again?

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2 thoughts on “Wasted talent

  1. I taught a web design short course for a Y9/10 Gifted&Talented group from a local school. During the ‘make a website about yourself’ session, one of the Y9s listed programming as one of his hobbies; he’d taught himself C++ and PHP. He then picked me up on the fact that we were using tables for layout and “shouldn’t we be learning CSS?” I think he’ll be bored by A Level ICT, so quite what he’s making of GCSEs right now I don’t know!

    The new 2008 14-19 framework should help with being able to challenge and push these students, with the extended project A level and the specialised diplomas.

    At least this student of yours has a teacher with the knowledge and skills to push him. I know of some ICT teachers who wouldn’t have had a clue what he was talking about in his project.

  2. I think we have to be really careful not to reward intelligence and hard work with extra work!. Doesn’t seem fair to me. Surely the kids that lack a work ethic and should be the ones that get the extra work :-).

    As for engaging him it sounds like he is already self motivated and highly skilled which is all we are are trying to teach them anyway.

    Let the lad ace ICT and have time to concentrate on his harder subjects. Yes he may never do another ICT / computing course in his life but he may use a linux computer to find a cure to cancer.

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