Time for a new ICT Qualification?



I started writing a post reflecting on the various sessions at #lwf11, but there are already lots of great versions of this out there. What I thought I’d do instead was try and document what I sat on the train thinking about on the way home.
It’s not news to hear I’m not a massive fan of the current breed of ICT qualifications schools offer- DiDA and iMedia being the two I have most direct knowledge of. I don’t feel the course material challenges or excites the best of our students, and I am constantly seeing the most creative and innovative uses of new technology out in other departments. For a long time this has lead me towards the opinion that ICT should not be a discrete subject at secondary level at all, but applied across the curriculum. But, I’ve never been convinced.

Now, we all understand why DiDA type qualifications are popular with schools. But if we are looking at the higher ability students, the ones I would like to challenge during their ICT lessons, I don’t think them missing out on the 4 GCSE’s worth of DiDA in preference for something else would impact on your 5 A*-Cs. Would be easy enough to model that on current data. What else could we be doing with that 4 hours a week they get at KS4 if we drop it completely? Could we bash through the DiDA qualification lower down the school and have a year for something else?

This isn’t just about DiDA, or about my school. This is a pattern I see repeated everywhere we visit. It has all been rattling around in my head for a little while. Added to this a few key moments from Learning Without Frontiers:

  • The amazing work that Apps For Good are doing. Applied to our institution where we already have at least one student earning a significant income from his iApp design work. Are we still saying that the ICT curriculum is providing for the needs of students like him?
  • Ed Vaizey (MP for culture, communications and creative industries) while not saying very much, did have a stat (that I didn’t write down) demonstrating just how few of our students know how big the game industry is in this country, what opportunities are there.
  • Ray Maguire (MD, Sony UK) was very clear. Schools are not providing students with the skills his company need in this area. He didn’t carry on to tell us what they were though.
  • Jimmy Wales (of Wikipedia fame) was asked what one thing he would prioritise in a new school- “The need to teach media literacy and how to assess sources of information and quality of knowledge”. This is huge. We do cover it in some way in various subjects, but is it high enough priority?

Coming away from the event I’m left with the feeling that there are some amazing things happening some of our schools, but we’re still not producing the goods at that core subject level for the careers our students want. Doesn’t it all just feel like it’s time we thought about something new? That argument about evolving vs. disrupting.

In an ideal world we would be sitting down with teachers and industry leaders, designing a course for our students that would provide them with the skills they need for the tech industry, giving them real-world experience, connections to the kind of people they might end up working with, making ICT something they are excited about. It would be challenging, fun, and current. When you start thinking about how this could be delivered online it starts to get a bit interesting. These conferences are the opportunities to see the most exciting people in our field, wouldn’t it be great if all of this knowledge and enthusiasm could be brought together and accesible to students everywhere?

Idle thoughts at the moment really. The other big lesson I picked up from the event was the need for more quality evidence in the field. If we are to convince the doubters all of this needs to be far more solid than ‘I think’. I’m hoping the MSc with Edinburgh will start to point me in that direction this year.

Much more to come on this, there is potential here… How hard could it be?!

Image source- Keyboard in action by lapideo

3 responses to “Time for a new ICT Qualification?”

  1. fred garnett says:

    I could say much in response to this but let us just link Vaizey and Wales. Wales said that critical AND media literacy are the number one skill for learners today. Ed Vaizey holds the brief for Media Literacy, through OFCOM and can respond to this request but like any politician pretended to the audience that because Education is not his brief he couldnt respond to any questions other than those relating to the cultural industries. I set up a Participatory Media Literacy Working Group at OFCOM which developed a programme which we were told to take to BLF for funding. This could be revived, or evolved into a Critical Media Literacy group, which could make recommendations, set standards and allocate funding, certainly through Big Lottery Fund, also in Ed Vaizey’s brief. Why dont we demand this be done?

  2. Dan Stucke says:

    Hi Tim,I couldn’t agree more. Having just taken over an ICT Department (I’m a Mathematician really!) I’m currently reading through ALL the specifications I can find as I’m not happy with the OCR Nationals that we are currently doing and I’m not convinced GCSE ICT would be right for many of our pupils. Trawling the framework of qualifications they all seem to have their weaknesses.

    I’ve been looking into Creative iMedia and it looks interesting, would be interested to hear your opinions of it.



  3. Kay Lincoln says:

    It’s very sad that our current OCR Nationals are very poor and it’s not seem to be getting better any time soon. :

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