Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Will Michael Gove allow ICT to revolutionise British Education?

Last week Michael Gove made a very interesting speech to a group of distinguished mathematicians and scientists, unsurprisingly, about the importance of Maths and Science education. One of the most significant parts of the speech was when the Secretary of State came on to discuss the place of ICT in schooling:

"Harnessing technology in the classroom

"In addition to the debate over what is taught, and the issue of who does the teaching, we also need to think about how the teaching takes place. So as well as reviewing our curriculum and strengthening our workforce, we need to look at the way the very technological innovations we are racing to keep up with can help us along the way. We need to change curricula, tests and teaching to keep up with technology, and technology itself is changing curricula, tests, and teaching.

"ItunesU now gives everybody with an Internet connection access to the world's best educational content. Innovations such as the Khan Academy are putting high quality lessons on the web. Extremely cheap digital cameras and the prevalence of the Internet allow teachers to share best practice and learn from errors." [My emphasis]
Gove raises a number of important issues here that have the potential to revolutionise British education:
  • It is refreshing that the Secretary of State is indicating that wants to see a much more collaborative approach towards the sharing of best practice, resources and content. He acknowledges that ICT has an important part to play in providing the vehicle for this to happen. A more collaborative approach both between schools and between the Maintained and Independent sectors is clearly the way forward. ICT has enormous potential for bringing teachers together and putting teaching and learning at the heart of the educational agenda. Clearly there are small pockets where this is happening, but we have a long way to go.
  • Does Gove's reference to iTunesU and to the Khan Academy indicate that the Government is happy to give up a degree of central control of educational resourcing? We have had a supply-driven - as opposed to a teacher demand-driven - educational agenda for most of the past twenty years. The DfE and LEAs have allowed educational suppliers to set the agenda for too long - suppliers telling schools what they need (Interactive Whiteboards, VLEs et al.) rather than teachers demanding want they need. Standards will rise by stepping back and allowing teachers to commincate and share how they are promoting learning.

    I am sure that his approach is driven by fiscal restraint. However, it is encouraging that Gove's solution is to embrace existing platforms rather than falling into the trap of his predecessors who no doubt would have wasted an enormous amount of money setting up a "national teachers' collaborative network". (I'm sure that Apple are delighted to receive the endorsement of the Secretary of State for iTunesU!)
  • Most interesting is Gove's reference to testing. e-Assessment has long been the elephant in the room in the classroom ICT revolution debate. I have argued previously that the British examination system has become too dislocated from key working practices in wider society (In the C21 adult world, when does anyone ever sit in silence without access to technology? - See my previous blog post e-Assessment - the case for the defence). Is Gove here indicating that he is willing to embrace e-Assessment as part of the GCSE and A-level assessment regime? Given the imaginative work being done by the team at AQA (see my Can e-assessment maintain the "Gold Standard"?), I certainly hope so.
I am sure that the key to raising educational standards is for the Government to intervene less, to encourage teachers to share best practice and to remove the administrative burden so that they can spend more time being creative about how they promote pupil learning.

Michael Gove's Speech in full: Improving maths and science education Wednesday, June 29 2011

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