5 Reasons why Michael Gove is right (about computing and education technology)
For a man who has been typecast as wanting to take education back to the future - with some justification - Michael Gove does seem to have a clear vision about how computing should be taught in schools. Opening BETT 2014 in London yesterday, Mr Gove addressed the role of education and technology - a topic which is more relevant than ever with the introduction of the computing curriculum just months away.
There were five things that stood out in his remarks that showed why he is right - about computing and education technology, at least.
"ICT used to focus purely on computer literacy - teaching pupils, over and over again, how to word process, how to work a spreadsheet, how to use programs already creaking into obsolescence; about as much use as teaching children to send a telex or travel in a zeppelin." A common criticism of the ICT curriculum but worth re-stating: the focus in ICT was on using existing computer programs. By contrast, Computing will enable students to imagine, and then develop, their own.
The curriculum changes demand a change in the level thinking. "we need an education system which is open, creative and adaptive - which is open to innovation, which can use technology creatively to advance learning and which is structured flexibly to adapt to change." Mr Gove spoke of how Instagram and Snapchat had gone from being almost unheard of to the mainstream since he spoke at BETT 2012 and rhetorically asked "how can government departments legislate for and regulate innovations which develop at such speed?".
Teachers will require the skills and knowledge (and, just as importantly, the confidence) to adapt as quickly as the technology. "...even as technology advances by leaps and bounds, nothing could be more essential than to make sure that the teachers in our classrooms are properly prepared to make the most of every opportunity." Computer Science teachers will need to be ready to present the new curriculum from September and then, unlike teaching trigonometry, Shakespeare or the Napoleonic Wars, CS teachers will have to consider the possibility of radically changing their material regularly to reflect developments and changes in how technology is used. "Teachers will be in the vanguard of this change - not just equipping young people with crucial computing skills and knowledge, but inspiring them with the incredible opportunities opened up by science and technology."
The purpose of education is to open up students' minds to the possibilities the future holds and to prepare them as best as possible for this great unknown. Nowhere is that more exciting than in computing. "None of us can know what lies ahead – all we can do is equip ourselves, and more importantly, our children, with essential building blocks of knowledge, whether that's mathematical principles many millennia in the making it an intricate computer code younger even than our youngest school pupils."
Mr Gove has thrown down the gauntlet to teachers with a curriculum that will challenge and stretch students and which will help to prepare them for the future, whatever that may look like.