I know a lot of educators were looking forward to a day when online learning would be embedded in everyday practice within schools. I don't think that they guessed we would need an epidemic across the globe to really give schools a chance to test their online learning and to find out just how effective it could be.
I haven't carried out a detailed study to find out the impact of students receiving their education from home ( I hope someone is doing this!), but it does appear that online learning has not lived up to expectations.
I know a number of schools have reported that teachers still don't have the skills needed to deliver this new style of learning and that many students may be set online work but are not doing it. Research by the Sutton Trust found that 19 per cent of pupils from state primary schools and 22 per cent from state secondary schools have taken part in some kind of daily tuition that has been provided for them.
I have also heard reports that some technology, including Microsoft Teams, has struggled to keep pace with the usage and that the digital divide has again raised its ugly head, preventing many students from accessing the lessons that have been provided.
We can only hope that at the end of this crisis, we will have a much better idea of what works and what doesn't work, so that we can make the goal of effective online learning a reality.
I have been looking through the new specifications for GCSE computer science starting in September and I have been struck by the lack of agreement on terminology. I’ll give you a couple of examples of this, but I could easily find more. OCR and Edexcel use the term Sample Rate, whereas AQA use the term Sampling Rate. OCR and Edexcel use the term Bit Depth and AQA uses the term Sample Resolution. Is there any need for this difference? – I’m sure this wouldn’t happen in science. Why can’t the exam boards agree on the base terminology that they use? This would be helpful to students who change exam boards, in their transition from GCSE to A level, and students who move schools.
Schools can be transformed using digital technology, but has this been the case in the most schools? I would say that many schools have made great strides in developing an environment where technology can be used to support learning and school management, but often there is not a clear whole school plan.
Often schools lack an over-arching shared vision of what they want to achieve and this can sometimes mean that expensive technology is not being used effectively, or not being used at all.
The best thing to do is to take a step back and reflect on why you think using technology can enhance learning and improve your school’s management systems. Once you have decided on your shared vision, the next step is to consider who will be responsible for your strategy and implementation. You will need to consider teaching & learning, school management, availability of technology, school management, digital safeguarding and training requirements.
To help you to do this we have designed a school technology audit. This audit is currently free to UK Schools. It will allow your school to consider a range of key factors and aid the process of planning for the transformation of your school. It’s best if the audit is completed by a number of staff from within your school, but feedback from one member of staff is still useful.
What have you got to lose? Complete the School Technology Audit (results will be returned to your school within 5 working days)
You would think that with the increased use of technology in schools, teachers would be having it easy. Unfortunately, the saying no pain no gain can be used here, as there definitely is a phase when you start using new technology that makes you think - is it worth the effort? Well it is! as long as you take good advice and make use of the experience of other teachers that have already taken the plunge.
Here are a few suggestions:
There is currently a review of what should happen in relation to the GCSE Computer Science Programming Project - Please contribute your views:
Ofqual’s ‘Future assessment arrangements for GCSE Computer Science’ consultation 2018
If you want your school to make more effective use of technology then here are some tips:
GCSE and A Level ICT are now in their death throes. The conservative government, mainly in the guise of Michael Gove have killed them off. It was at the beginning of 2012 that Gove said that the existing curriculum in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) had left children "bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers". Having been an ICT teacher at the time, all I can say is that I don’t recognise his criticism as being a true reflection of what was happening in the classroom. Yes, we were teaching students to use applications such as Word and Excel, as these were essential tools not just for students, but also for the majority of working adults.
It is a caricature of the reality that was seen in schools, where students were learning about control, programming (usually using graphical programming languages, such as Scratch), video and audio editing, scripting languages (such as html) and creating relational databases. It was a small cohort of so called “experts” who advised Mr Gove into bringing their vision to reality. This misguided group threw out the baby with the bath water.
Wind forward nearly six years from this change and there is already ample evidence that this decision, by groups with a vested interest, was at best a misguided decision and at worse a retrograde step.
Early this year, it was ironically the British Computing Society (BCS), one of the groups who advised Mr Gove, that were showing concern that the number of students taking up a qualification in computing would likely halve by 2020. You could have asked any ICT teacher back in 2012 and they would have been able to predict this outcome. Not that the computing/ computer science curriculum is of no value, it definitely has its place as a valuable qualification, but only alongside ICT/IT qualifications.
We now have students arriving at secondary schools from many primary schools with little knowledge of ICT. Many of them have used a tablet, but never a desktop computer or laptop. Secondary school teachers need to teach the students basic ICT skills before they move on to teaching computing, that’s if they have the time.
GCSE ICT was always a popular choice for girls and despite money being spent on encouraging girls to choose GCSE computer science, there is little evidence that this is having any impact. So not only are fewer students choosing a “computing” qualification, even fewer of these are girls.
It really is time to bring back GCSE ICT and A Level ICT before even more damage is done.
Computer Science teachers and their students are currently getting to grips with the new form of assessment that has been included as part of the move to the 9-1 GCSEs. The non-exam assessment (NEA) has been introduced amid growing anxiety and unease among teachers, who have to read a growing list of detailed and complex instructions about the procedures required. It's no wonder that there is a general feeling of unease. The exam boards have tried to be helpful but this has not allayed the fears of computer science teachers.
There is a lack of certainty about what they can share with their students, particularly in relation to the NEA Resource Bank. In addition, as this is a new course there is a dearth of materials to support teachers and provide students with examples of what other students have produced in previous years. Hopefully the NEA Support Pack goes some way towards supporting teachers.
At the end of the day teachers will need to priorities exam preparation over the NEA, as the exams will contribute 80% of their students final grade.
It seems like only yesterday that there was a big buzz around schools. Every school was going to have one, the government insisted. This was the future of education, you could have a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), an MLE (Managed Learning Environment), or even a Learning Platform. The distinction has blurred over time and we now seem to be all buzzed out. There has been no revolution, no seismic shift of an educational paradigm and I, along with every optimistic educator, feel let down. I really wanted my virtual school to grow as big as the real school and I spent years developing it, trying to convince every teacher that the answer to everything, was not 42, but a beautiful, all encompassing MLE.
Looking back I was definitely optimistic, but should that have been frowned upon? I passionately believed in my MLE and struggled to understand why very few teachers seemed to share my passion.
It wasn't yesterday, it was 10 years ago and now my passion has waned. VLEs MLEs, learning platforms, whatever you want to call them, never actually died, they just need to find their time and place. One day, probably not tomorrow, the virtual school will come into its own. I hope I'm around to see it.
Russell Bryant, has taught Science, ICT and Computer Science both in the UK and in South America for over 20 years. This includes teaching GCSEs, A Levels, IB and IGCSEs.