The Guardian editorial on 31st March 2012 identified a significant opportunity for the UK government to move technology education beyond the practicalities of using software to function in a digital world. In rewriting the schools syllabus and redefining the teaching of information technology, there is the possibility to shift the emphasis to understanding systems and treating software as something that needs to be properly understood by looking at the code under the bonnet.
The bigger picture is that although the UK economy is exploiting the internet more than any other industrialised nation, it is trailing behind the US and Japan as well as China, Korea and Brazil in terms of education and achievement and committing resources to digital skills.
However the new syllabus is yet to be defined, and on its own, is unlikely to be the silver bullet to help the UK catch-up. The same is true for policy. This means there is as yet no centralised framework that determines the future of information technology teaching; and it is also true for defining technology tools, methodologies and platforms for teaching.
It is one thing to define ‘what’ to teach as part of the technology syllabus, but an entirely different one to define ‘how’ technology is deployed to facilitate teaching in general. Or is it?
The two are clearly different but they do not exist in isolation, because the approach to teaching with technology says so much about teaching technology. The ‘what’ of syllabus must be joined up with policy’s ‘how’.
In today’s league table results driven educational environment, who can blame schools for acting autonomously and implementing what they believe may be quick fixes that have worked in other schools. Fundamentally, if the best approach to teaching with technology was as simple as putting an iPod in the hands of every pupil and an iPad in those of every teacher, then surely there would be no problem. But this approach reinforces the narrow view of students just being software users, creating a generation of digital consumers.
To really push a ‘what’s under the bonnet’ approach to technology, students need to see the best education oriented systems in the classroom; we are not talking about the slickest device with the coolest gimmick, or the latest app with the best graphics. It is about offering an integrated toolbox, a learning portal, which delivers an excellent user experience and real value for students, teachers, administrators and parents alike.
Some students may never develop an interest in computer code; however exposure to integrated best of breed technology, such as Scholaris’ learning portal, can only serve to stimulate others.