On Tuesday, I had a twitter chat with a chap I met at a conference a couple of years ago. He’s a nice bloke and works in education policy, and computery stuff, and setting up what teachers need to teach. He has done some really important work and has raised the profile of lots of important concepts. This in itself isn’t a problem and the chat was reflective of the to-and-fro from when we met.
But then I got to thinking and that is a really dangerous/irritating thing, depending on whether you’re reading me on the internet or whether you’re Mr Dr Ross, having to put up with me being stroppy about crappy resources and budgets yet again for schools. So poor Mr Dr Ross had to put up with me being cross and now I’m writing it down.
The chat developed into a thing where poor resourcing and lack of computers, capacity to ‘do’ computer use as part an embedded element of the curriculum became a school-based problem rather than one with policy. On the face of it, that seems fairly innocuous and a plausible stance to take. But then I went on the exercise bike and me plus any type of bike means thinking takes place. With my SEND and dyslexia head on, I think different around ICT from other teachers. I want every kid to have access to a device so that they are facilitated to be independent and to be able to make their own reasonable adjustments where they need to. And that takes resourcing. But it’s connected to the notion of an embedded ICT framework where use of computers is taught as a tool of other subject’s trades. My wonderful colleague was on board with this, as am I; it is a great idea and in policy it makes sense.
But schools aren’t managing it. And that’s with my SEND head on: there are not enough computers.
So switch that to trying to embed building kids’ ICT skills through cross-curricular means and we hit a barrier: there are not enough computers.
And that’s not a school fault it’s a systemic fault. Resources, structures, and policies do not facilitate use of computers across the board. Schools don’t have rooms for fixed ICT posts for each student, they don’t have infra-structure for 1200 computers; families don’t all have a few hundred pounds to buy kit. Staff are not all trained in ICT and use of ICT looks different in all the different pathways that students might choose. The systems and building blocks for schools to do ICT as an embedded thing are just not there.
Not doing cross-curricular ICT isn’t a school problem. it is absolutely a structural problem.
When policies are written remotely and directives are given by people who are no longer (or who have never been) in the classroom, their implementation may be at best unrealistic and at worst completely impossible. That seems to be how a lot of policy is written at present and developments in ICT, computer science and digital literacy risks falling into that category. The intention behind the policy is, I believe, well-meaning and there are some hugely important developments there. But the reality is, that while people devising policies, curricula and education systems don’t have a handle on what is needed to make it work, in reality, across schools and colleges nationwide policies won’t work. We’ve seen it with SEND policy, exam policy and many other areas.
I hope it doesn’t happen with digital literacy and ICT stuff, but I worry that it might.