How will Michael Gove change IT lessons?

Michael Gove is planning a complete change to the way computer science is taught in school. The new lessons will be a joint project between universities and industry to make children more prepared for future life.

In a speech at BETT 2012, Michael Gove claimed that children are bored by the current ICT curriculum which involves teaching them how to use Word and Excel due to teachers not being stimulated by the lessons. Instead he wants schools to be able to choose what they teach in lessons designed with the help of academics and employers. The new curriculum will start being taught as early as September.

One of Michael Gove’s proposals is to remove the parts of the curriculum which teach children office skills. He wants to teach them computer science rather than computer office skills. Obviously this is advantageous to children who want to go into computer programming, however for the scores of children who are going to end up in offices using word processing packages and spread sheets, where will they be taught the skills to use these?

Gove said that once the old ICT curriculum moves aside, children should be able to use Scratch to make 2D computer animations by the age of 11. At 16 he would expect them to be able to write smart phone apps.

This sounds like a great idea in principle. Children will be more motivated to work on computers if they can do more of the fun stuff on them. However, do we have teachers in schools that are able to educate our children to use this software? Only time will tell.

3) A Curriculum Designed by Industry
Next week a consultation on the changes will take place, where a new computer science GCSE will be planned and a curriculum to prepare children for this will be developed. A pilot curriculum for the GCSE is already being planned by Microsoft and IBM. Key stage three and four curriculum have been developed by the British Computer Society which has been contributed to by Google, Cambridge University and Microsoft.

The problem with the curriculum being designed with the input of market leaders is that there may be a tendency to ignore other up and coming software that the children will be more likely to be using in the future. These industries will also be biased towards their own products so children are going to miss out on using open source software and have to stick to Microsoft products instead.

4) Letting Teachers Choose the Curriculum
Gove states that ICT is now reaching into all areas of industry and children need to be better prepared to face this when they start work. He has criticised the current curriculum for not giving children the skills they need. He says that creating a new ICT curriculum is pointless in this age of changing technology and wants to leave it to teachers to be able to change the curriculum to fit in with the changing world.

Giving this responsibility to teachers could be both a brilliant and terrible idea. For ICT teacher who are enthusiastic and interested in their subject they could engage pupils and involve them in a whole host of interesting technologies. However some teachers may struggle with the move from traditional ICT and have to learn the new methods before they teach them. This will reduce their confidence and the children are less likely to be enthused by their lessons.

5) Teaching a More Advanced Curriculum
At the age of 16 Michael Gove will be expecting children to and have an understanding of computer science that previously wasn’t covered until University. This will mean that the potential for children to make huge leaps in their knowledge of computing and have more skills when they go out into the workforce is much higher. However there will also be an impact on universities who will have to make their courses harder to keep up with the school leavers. This could result in undervaluing computer degrees that have been taken previously.

The hope is that by opening up the ICT curriculum in this way that it will eventually make our industries more competitive in the world. The aim is to teach future generations of children far more about computers and the internet than most of us know even now. From programming apps, to building websites, to understanding malware and how to fight it, these children should be tech savvy and computer literate; ready for the internet-reliant world that awaits them. Unfortunately it has been left to teachers to decide what children should be learning, and this could mean that the end result is never achieved.