>A 14 year boy called Nick was the catalyst for the existence of the IEAward. Ironically he was not particularly good at ICT, or at least what was on offer to him at school. He struggled with making a spreadsheet add up a budget and had even more problems explaining why a mail merge was useful. Then one day he came up to us and asked us to help him with a problem he was having with his computer. He then proceeded to explain all the things he had already tried. Needless to say he lost his ICT teachers quite quickly. Nick was not unique, in fact he was a pretty typical student. How many adults and teachers know that their students know more than they do? Once in a while as a teacher of mathematics you realize that a student might be better than you; as an ICT teacher this can and should happen every lesson.
Almost every school believes that ICT should be in the curriculum but it is not easy to find the right course for the student. You can go for the skills based courses which tend to identify key ICT skills that students “need to know”. For a few years this suited our purpose but it didn’t take long to see the flaws: are these the right skills (does it even matter?) . Equally worrying is the lack of progress – some kids could do it, some just could not.
Examination based courses also have their place, they give structure and students are familiar with the way they work. At the end of the course you have your piece of paper that says Grade A ICT to go along with all the other subjects. Everyone knows the standards and what they mean. The thing is we don’t know what they mean and perhaps we don’t care, its simply a way of comparing one student with another. The value of questions like “name 3 input devices and give an example of how they might be used” is open to debate but what is more significant is that, with well organized teaching, we should be able to get everyone to answer this question. What do we learn about the student, where is the opportunity for creativity in a subject which has the power to blow us out of the water with new ideas?
There are courses out there that seek to encourage students with coursework, but as anyone who has taught these course knows the “Mark Scheme” dictates the rules that the students follow. Schools themselves know what does work and what does not. Tasks become regimented in the name of good marks and students are rarely challenged.
For us, what was needed was a new course, one that opened the doors to creativity, problem solving, communication, reflection and commitment.