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ICT, Computer Science, Schools and Governors

ICT, Computer Science, Schools and Governors

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Baby surfing the internetOver the last few days there has been an avalanche of news and opinion about ICT in schools.

Schools are being overcharged in IT leasing agreements, signing agreements that overcharge them for the most basic IT equipment.

Ian Livingstone talks about a “nation of digital illiterates“, who spend a year learning how to use PowerPoint, and as a result are so bored by their lessons that they switch off from ICT.

Graham Brown-Martin wrote on TES about how technophobia doesn’t belong in education. Children are themselves switching from TV to internet, and today Michael Gove will announce that school ICT will be replaced by Computer Science.  This may be a challenge as, in 2010, of the 28000 teachers who qualified only 3 held a computing degree, but Mr Gove says he wants to concentrate on training teachers rather than buying hardware.   Another interesting blog here from Pat Parslow about Digital Literacy and how new ways of “teaching” may be necessary.

The Computer Science programme will be with “help from Microsoft and Google”.   We’re slightly biased on this one, as we believe that open source software should be the first choice because it’s cost-effective and flexible.

So, why am I highlighting all these stories? I sometimes get asked by Governors if I can send them paper versions of our e-learning modules or our online newsletter and post to their home address.  Unfortunately, it’s not something we can do for them, as they’ve all been designed for the screen.  I’ve also had a few Governors tell me that they refuse to use email for their school governing duties.

Simultaneously I’ve noticed that more local governors’ associations are using social media to reach their members and the wider school governance community, and there is a move by the wider public sector to make services “digital by default”.

Is an offline governor a barrier to an effective governing body in today’s world?  Should digital literacy be a pre-requisite to becoming a school governor?  Will a change to the curricula deter some people from volunteering to be a school governor, for fear that their offline status will rule them out?

Looking forward to reading your comments!

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  • Dave
    Posted at 14:24h, 11 January Reply

    I am continually pushing for use of IT by our governing body of which I’m a parent governor – I’m a software engineer by profession. This has been well accepted and has streamlined the sub-committee meetings no end.
    All our governors have and use email. However, our clerk of governors refuses to use email! This leads to all agenda and minutes being paper only. All minutes and reviews etc. in subcommittees are available online. The more important full body minutes, agendas etc. aren’t.
    What are people’s opinions?
    Is this (a) common? (b) acceptible?

  • Jane
    Posted at 15:01h, 11 January Reply

    I am certainly well over 21 and Chair at two schools. I love technology and do despair that some of my generation do not keep up with it all. How can you understand the pressures on our children and young people if you do not understand the mediums they are using both socially and in their school. The school curriculum is so exciting for young people these days!
    My governors have embraced email and our VLE.. We can respond so quickly to requests for comments, extra meetings, edit minutes etc that I am not sure how we managed before! My clerk is certainly at the forefront of using technology and we can also have a paper copy if we request one!
    As Chair of a Governors’ Forum I am also now tweeting information to colleagues as well as sending email updates and updating a website.
    I, personally, consider it part of a governor’s role to keep up with IT as well as educational issues in order to be better informed. Many schools, as well as local libraries, have computer suites, mean that access is so much easier for everyone if you do not have this at home.
    We have to move forward!

  • Steve Lee
    Posted at 19:51h, 11 January Reply

    Fortunately, I haven’t experienced a clerk being anything other than helpful. Unfortunately the ‘digital divide’ still exists. We encourage people from all walks of life to be school governors, but this means that we ask people to be governors who don’t have the training or the money to have the access to IT that would be needed for the governing body to be fully electronic. To what extent do you think the school or the local authority should support IT access for school governors? I’d really like to be able to ensure that all our governors have the support they need to be effective.

  • Elaine Walton
    Posted at 11:19h, 12 January Reply

    Thanks everyone for your comments so far. @Dave I haven’t heard of this before (but that’s not to say it isn’t common). I can see how difficult this would make it for you because there’s a gap between how the sub-committees are working and how the main GB is functioning. A quick Google shows that there are many schools that post their GB minutes online publicly.

    @Jane – that’s great to hear! So many schools are using VLEs now that I can see the benefits of the GB using (the same?) VLE – maybe having a “Governors’ Corner” on there for them to collaborate/communicate.

    @Steve I’ve heard of local authorities setting up email addresses for all their governors, so that they don’t have to divulge/use their personal email address. According to an ONS survey in 2011, 77% of UK residents have access to the internet in their own home. I’ve seen a few isolated cases where schools have purchased an IPad for every Governor, but think this will be the exception rather than the rule.

    Personally I think that any decision to work electronically should be driven by the individual GB, so that measures can be taken if there are individual Governors who can’t access the internet at home/work/the school/other location. There are also tons of free courses to help people learn how to do the basics – and if there is a strong desire to become paperless, then maybe a session could be arranged in the school ICT suite to help Governors get on online. It’s not just about Governors using the internet to access information outside of a GB meeting – maybe use the interactive whiteboard during meetings to display the agenda and other documents, instead of printing multiple copies for distribution during the meeting.

    Keep your comments coming in! Thanks all.

    (PS Got any other tips for Governing Bodies that want to go online? Pop them in the comments box below and I’ll run a special feature.)

  • Ariana Yakas
    Posted at 14:49h, 16 January Reply

    In this day and age I feel it is important for all governors to be online. IMO it sends a message to the school as to the importance of ICT in our lives and also the importance of good and effective ICT in the chidren’s education. Having said that I don’t necessarily think it is vital that everyone on the GB uses all the latest gadgetry etc but it is increbibly useful if there are a couple of champions, so to speak. Just like it is useful to have an accountant or other financial porfessional on the GB it is useful to have a governor with IT knowledge so as to help advise the school when it comes to developments.
    I have recently been using Twitter as a means of obtaining upto date information on governors issues and also finding out what other GB are doing in relation to ‘best practice’. I think, used appropriately, it is an excellent resource for GBs. I have currently come across the online group facility called Wiggio which some GBs are using to store all their documents and arrange meetings etc. On the surface it looks excellent and something worth exploring further.

  • Mark Hilton
    Posted at 17:11h, 01 March Reply

    We created a bespoke Governor Web Portal for our GB which held all the minutes, agendas etc as a secure online document store, but we also used it for forums, discussion threads and online surveys (between members of the GB) in order to action things and move on various topics outside of meetings (to make meeting time more effective). We also embedded latest news topics from places like the DfE website so one visit to the portal gave you a quick snap-shot of current Education issues. This sat alongside a “What’s New” box showing the latest minutes or discussions currently in the Portal.
    One of the problems, aside from having access to ICT, is peoples capacity (or maybe willingness?) to contribute outside of meeting time.

  • Jase Bell
    Posted at 15:12h, 17 December Reply

    Moving from ICT to Computer Science, nice thought but I’m still not convinced this is going work play out the way we hope it will. There was a move 2003/2004 to move away from computer science to business administration as “it was needed” in the post dotcom bust period. During that time the growth of the internet left a lot of educational establishments ill prepared for what was coming.

    There’s the short term issue that many of the software engineering positions remain unfilled, there’s a skill shortage now. What’s being addressed is the skills shortage in 7-10 years time. As it stands no one can really predict that far ahead. Adult education in this area is just as important as the child’s education.

    The long term view is good though. Children do need skills in the building blocks of logic weaving in how conditionals and loops within programming languages work. Now with “assistance” from large corporations there’s the potential to skew the agenda a little bit. Open source is a good solution but it is a double edged sword as well, legacies of inaccurate documentation does more to confuse and annoy than it ever did to teach and inform.

    Not every child wants to be a computer programmer when they grow up. There is no real app economy so you can’t use the carrot and string of writing an iPhone app will set you up for life. That’s simply not true.

    What we can do is plant the seed and get them interested in how the stuff works. Scratch is a good starting point for kids programming as is the Coderdojo movement that gets parents, kids and professionals together in a setting where they can enjoy and educate at the same time. At least plan the acorn and feed the interest.

    Lastly we cannot ignore the role of good maths education in all of this. Remember that learning from data is the job of the future (that started last year) and ploughing all the resource into computing may result in industry ignoring the untapped potential of the data that’s produced.

    The next three or four years will be interesting to watch.

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