Wednesday, May 09, 2012
In a relatively short length of time, ways of thinking about digital technologies in schools seem to have shifted. When we started up the DeFT project last September it was pretty clear that the ICT curriculum was the last place to look for interesting digital practices. The team we assembled were from the start more interested in the literacy part of digital literacy than the technological bit. Indeed some of us had already started to use the idea of literacy as digital practice to describe our work. But as the academic year has unfolded, competing conceptualizations of digital literacy have surfaced - some of them not too far from Glister & Rlister's (1997:290) original definition: 'a set of skills to access the Internet; find, manage and edit digital information; join in communications; and other wise engage with an online information and communication network. In simple terms, digital literacy is the ability to properly use and evaluate digital resources, tools and services and apply it to their life long learning process.' But in the project team there is also an awareness of how work in fields such as media literacy, popular culture and information studies informs how we see things. In January, when Gove addressed the BETT conference, two things were quick to emerge: firstly that the ICT curriculum in England was officially moribund, and secondly that computer science and coding were in the ascendancy. No surprise about the former, and of course the latter simply plays into the myth that education has a direct link to some imagined future economic salvation. So now we have a consultation on 'disapplying' the ICT programmes of study. The summary will soon be published. Meanwhile, as always, interesting work is going on in the schools. In our project schools, for instance, the work is not exclusively digital, but of course it always contains that element. It plays into all sorts of kinds of learning - in the classrooms and outside the classrooms, in art projects, community projects, writing projects, English and media projects and with pupils of different ages and from different backgrounds. It's not so much a case of a digital curriculum, more a way of exploring the digital in the curriculum - the sorts of practices that might work, the kinds of barriers that might need to be overcome. If disapplying a curriculum helps this sort of creative exploration that's good. My worry is that it will be replaced by something worse. The NextGen report referred to coding as 'the new Latin', and for me that conjures up the idea of a very worthy but largely irrelevant and poorly taught curriculum (with high symbolic value) that simply reproduced social division. But the DeFT project isn't that, it's about open-minded teachers involved in a creative exploration of technology and learning.
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