A message to the DfE’s Information Standards Board
Of all the denunciations thrown across the floor of the British House of Commons, “In the name of God, go!” occupies a special place. It was first used by Oliver Cromwell when he dismissed the Long Parliament in 1653. In 1940, it was used by Leo Amery to call for the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, opening the way for Winston Churchill to come into Number 10. More recently, it has been used to call for the resignations of Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi. Only Margaret Thatcher, at the hands of the more emollient Geoffrey Howe, was spared the British political equivalent of Robert Louis Stephenson’s black spot. It is a call that is only appropriate at the final resort, when the last possibility of reasonable discussion has past. In the case of the DfE’s Information Standards Board, that point has now come.
The ISB holds responsibility in the DfE for the development of data standards to improve interoperability. On this blog, I have started (see Scrapping “ICT” and Aristotle’s saddle-maker) but not yet finished making the argument that will conclude (as did BESA’s Policy Commission of 2008) that these interoperability standards are critical for the intelligent application of education technology. It is in this context that the failure of the ISB should be judged.
I have intended to build up a carefully stepped argument in this blog, only progressing to look at specific policy issues when I had covered some important background first. But in view of the speed with which the current debate around education technology is progressing (and in particular, the opportunity this week presented by the #AskGove Twitter campaign), I have decided to publish ahead of schedule a summary of reasons why the DfE should cancel it’s ill-conceived Information Management and Learning Services framework. Continue reading →
Or the importance of software in education technology
We have invested too much in hardware and not enough in skills. That, at least, is the message that Michael Gove has given in his two recent speeches on education technology.
He is probably right. Rows of gleaming white boxes have always made good ministerial visits. Ever since the ill-fated “modems in cupboards” initiative of the 1980s, we have tended to fill our schools with hardware, while the current debate around the “dull and boring” ICT curriculum has highlighted the inadequacy of many teachers’ technical skills.
We should beware, however, of believing that these two issues—hardware and teacher skills—are opposed to one another, like two sides of a coin. As with most antitheses, this would be to divide our world mistakenly into opposing hemispheres.
I thought it would be worth responding in detail on this blog as Sir Ken is regarded by many as a forward-looking and inspirational thinker, who speaks at a number of important education technology conferences, both in the UK and the US.
I want to look in detail at Sir Ken’s views and explain why I think they are misguided and simplistic. I have typed out the text of his video below, so that I can respond to it in detail.
On his Spannerman blog on 11 January, John Spencer announced that “BETT opens as ICT is scrapped by Gove”. This was a misleading title. What Michael Gove scrapped was “the current, flawed ICT curriculum”, which he called on the industry and awarding bodies to replace. Mr Gove made it clear that “ICT will remain compulsory at all key stages”—and he himself continued to use the term “ICT” throughout the speech.
I am not reporting here that ICT has been scrapped, but arguing that as a term “ICT” ought now to be scrapped—and that the changes being initiated by Mr Gove probably will result in this happening. An article today by the Guardian’s Digital Literacy Campaign uses “ICT” five times, “IT” six times, and “computer science” five times. This shift in the use of terminology will ultimately change the way we think about what we are doing.
Welcome to Ed Tech Now, a blog that aims to challenge orthodox thinking about education technology.
Since the mid-1990s, I have sat on a number of technical and standards committees for learning, education and training, from BESA’s OILS initiative in the mid-1990s, through Becta and DfE working groups, to BSI’s IST/043, and groups at ISO/IEC’s SC36, the IEEE’s LTSC, SALTIS, and the LETSI Foundation.
In common with many of my colleagues in this field, I have been constantly frustrated by our poor progress in developing education technologies that have made a significant impact in improving our education system. Ever since the emergence of the personal computer in the 1970s, people have looked to technology to revolutionise education. So far, that revolution has not happened.