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Make IT Better: Teacher Jane Waite on the need to create future IT heroes like Tim Berners-Lee

07 Nov 2012
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V3 has become increasingly concerned that current measures being taken to overhaul the IT curriculum and GCSE syllabus will not lead to young people being taught the technology skills needed by the IT industry.

The V3 Make IT Better campaign, launched in partnership with the Corporate IT Forum, calls on the Department for Education (DfE) to give the ICT curriculum reform process transparency and to include the views of more teachers, education advisers and IT professionals from the start.

As part of this campaign, V3 is publishing regular accounts from teachers and IT professionals on what they want to see in the new ICT curriculum.

Primary school teachers have been particularly underrepresented in the reform process, according to reports from those involved. Here we speak to Jane Waite, an ICT teacher at West Hove Infants school. Waite teaches Year One and Year Two pupils, who are between the ages of five and seven (Key Stage 1).

ICT teacher Jane Waite

Waite welcomes the government's decision to reform the ICT curriculum, even though she believes the process by which the reforms are occurring is too fast.

"The curriculum is in urgent need of being brought up to date, and for the Computer Science development skills to be taught as a discrete discipline to the IT user based skills," says Waite.

The old ICT curriculum that has been removed from schools lacked an emphasis on the Computer Science discipline.

In Key Stage 1, the old curriculum said pupils should be taught how to gather and store information in different forms, retrieve information, use tables to present information and tools to select information.

Waite believes "computational thinking" forms the backbone of Computer Science teaching, and this should be taught to children in reception class onwards, using process activities, such as sorting through problems, and following instructions.

"Computational thinking is the very core of computing. Without this Tim Berners-Lee and Charles Babbage would not have got anywhere. Computational thinking is exciting because it's this intuitive thing that only really great analysts, designers, builders and testers have."

"I used to work in IT with big company systems, and you could just tell the people who had 'it'. It's being able to abstract a problem area and being able to form a beautiful simple model, or being able to wade through the morass of some process and state five simple steps."

West Hove Infants is trailing projects this year to develop computational thinking amongst pupils. In Year One, pupils will be challenged with making their own e-greeting cards, first in pairs and then on their own. Meanwhile Year Two pupils will be asked to make their own online games.

Waite says the school is also introducing a cross-curricula aspect to the study of ICT, so technology is used to support investigations in science, maths and geography.

Additionally, Waite believes it is imperative that schools give young children the chance to become familiar with a variety of digital tools.

"Desktops, laptops and tablets of any kind, like iPads, iPods, Android devices, Windows devices, LearnPads, Livescribes, flip cameras, Talking Tins, and recordable speech bubbles. Actually anything and everything so children become up for having a go with any technology they pick up," said Waite.

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