Why do we teach ICT?
There is quite the discussion about that very question at the moment. From educators referring to mainstream ICT as “passively pushing buttons” to employers complaining that school leavers and even graduates do not even come close to the level of digital literacy demanded by the 21st century workplace.
Whilst there are those from the education profession who will instinctively defend their subject, I am not one of them. Well at least not entirely. I came into teaching from a (brief) stint in industrial ICT, having been trained for it beforehand. Seeing ICT in the workplace explode over the past ten years and having experienced the work demanded from those looking to start their careers leaving education, I can say with some justification that there needs to be a shift in what is taught in schools.
There are the naive comments that ICT is basically making text Bold and Underlined (<- Can you see, I am well trained) to those more assertive remarks that students can leave after studying an advanced level course in ICT, not knowing what Operating System they did it on, or even the realising complexities of what happens under the keyboard to make that poster that will get them their qualification.
Would we teach Science showing only the result of the respiratory system? Would we deliver a PE curriculum only focusing on how to score a Goal? Then why are we (mostly) teaching ICT without allowing students to realise and appreciate the amazing technology they are utilising. Once the majesty of computer science is realised by a young learner, it can be like a touch-paper being lit that can initiate an entire career. I say this from first hand experience.
I was 14 when I first saw inside a computer and realised that it was not just a noisy box. I then learnt the anatomy of the machine itself and within months I was upgrading my own machine at home. ICT is now an exponential independent learning curve for me that was all started ten years ago and has never stopped.
Learners should leave education as either school leavers or graduates with the very least a structured appreciation of computing and general ICT, delivered to them through a holistic curriculum that keeps the best of the traditional approach that we are used to and weaves in knowledge of a vocational nature, supported by industry and tailored by employers. A curriculum that keeps updated and delivers learners to the workplace that can utilise the tools of the 21st century and be open to learning further as the landscape undoubtably shifts continuously beneath their feet.