Why should I be teaching this?


Yesterday I posted about my new Digital Storytelling course at Mukoku. Students use audio editing software and Storybird to create both a short story and an audiobook of that story, with optional extra activities of using video editing software or presentation software to present the information in yet more forms.

I’m actually quite excited about using the course with My Year 7s next week and I’ve also enjoyed seeing my son (11) start to use Storybird himself (having co-authored 1 book and written 1 all by himself in the last 2 days).

What I don’t like is that an ICT teacher is the one doing it. English – yes. MFL (in a different context) – yes. This brings us back to the old discrete ICT vs embedded ICT argument. Should all ICT be taught through other subjects? Or none?

The answer, of course, lies somewhere in-between. Spreadsheets are undoubtedly ICT tools, and while I would like to see Science and Maths lessons using these tools, I think there needs to be discrete teaching. Databases are also ICT tools, although heading in the direction of Computing/Computer Studies. Programming is definitely Computing/Computer studies.

A lot of the ‘C’ topics in ICT could easily be taught elsewhere – creating presentations, flyers and posters, use of online tools such as email and forums. The problems here are two-fold:

Teachers in non-ICT subjects often lack the skills necessary to teach ICT effectively*. How many teachers in your school book an ICT suite and tell their students to ‘make a PowerPoint’? How many would appreciate the reasons for resizing or reformatting images? How many would appreciate just how unfailingly awful Word Art is? How many would consider having students use Prezi, video editing software or other methods of presenting the information*? Without a significant amount of training, support and practice, it is unreasonable to expect non-ICT specialists to teach these skills to the required level.

The other problem is access to equipment. PC costs have never been lower and there are an increasingly diverse range of technologies out there – notebooks, tablets, mobile devices and much more on the horizon. And yet in most schools there are just enough computers for the ICT lessons plus maybe one or two departments who have paid for their own suites (in our case MFL and DT). Teachers wanting to book an ICT suite have perhaps a 15% chance of finding one not scheduled for a timetabled lesson, falling to 1% if they leave it less than a week in advance. The chances of finding 2 or 3 lessons in a row in order to complete any significant computerised tasks is typically nil.

So there is a lot that needs doing if things are to improve. I share my ideas with other colleagues – both within my own school and through the likes of Twitter, Techy Tips and Mukoku. I offer to give up free periods to support others. I offer to hang around in my teaching room (a Mac suite) when booked by others in case they need a hand, or just the safety of knowing I’m there just in case. Sometimes I feel like I’m peeing into the wind, sometimes I think I’m trying to move a rubber tree plant.

* I am very aware that some non-ICT specialists are very knowledgeable in this area and do an awful lot of brilliant work. I am also aware that a number of ‘specialist’ ICT teachers are making pupils victims of the ‘anyone can teach IT’ policy, although they are in the minority in my experience.


4 thoughts on “Why should I be teaching this?

  1. Allyssa Andersen says:

    Forgive me for not understanding the issues with ICT as I am from the US. Could you give a little explanation of what it is? I think I know but I’m still curious. Thanks!

  2. ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is largely focused on the use of application software to carry out tasks. This includes Office applications (DTP, presentations, spreadsheets, databases) and increasingly more interesting topics including video editing, audio editing, image editing, CAD, animation (e.g. Flash).

    A separate subject is Computing, which isn’t necessarily taught at all at KS3 (11 – 14 years old) – although many ICT teachers are trying to use tools such as Scratch and Alice to introduce Computing topics.

  3. I agree, not everyone is an English authority, and not everyone an ICT authority. We can try as best as we can to support one another, but at some point, expertise is required.

  4. Mark,
    I always read your musings with interest. As a teacher of Modern Foreign Languages and a would-be-tech-geek I try to use ICT effectively in my lessons and try to get the best from my students by allowing them to use web tools to be creative. Unfortunately, there are ICT teachers in some schools who still get student to make Powerpoints. One of my yr7 students told me recently that he liked my lessons in the ICT room better than ICT because they are interesting and not a repeat of work they did in primary.
    I think perhaps it would be better for students to learn Computing rather than ICT in KS3, too.
    Keep up the good work,

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