A recent Ofsted report has described design and technology lessons as ‘out of date’, identifying a number of challenges schools and teachers face. So are kids too ahead of the game to benefit from tech classes?
The major difficulty Ofsted (the schools inspector) identified was teachers keeping apace with the relentless charge of technological advances. As a writer on the subject of consumer technology, I don’t find this surprising.
A cursory search on the internet suggests that the average age of a teacher these days is around 43 years old, and a lot has changed since those teachers were students themselves.
How technology has changed
In the last 20 years we’ve seen the explosion of the internet into our lives through PCs, laptops, smartphones and now even tablets. While these aren’t the subjects that I’m saying should be on the technology curriculum, their emergence reflects today’s fast-paced tech world as a whole.
My earliest memories of technology are of my father bringing home from work some fibre optic cable when I was about seven. And I can fondly remember using the Logo Turtle and Acorn computers in school lessons. These classroom wonders of technology were used by classes year after year with very little dating.
Tech gets trendy
Nowadays, not only do computers date quicker than ever, but some have also become fashionable. When I was at school all computers were cool, but these days the school computers might not be as cool as the Mac that mum or dad has at home.
And this exposure to technology away from the school also plays a part in this issue. Children are growing up with technology and are developing their own understanding of it.
Parents complain of their children frittering away the hours on the internet, but it gives them a good understanding of how to apply their technology skills. And as a result I wouldn’t be surprised if many teachers see teaching IT as a daunting event – how can they speak with authority on a subject that some children may know better than them?
How can IT teaching improve?
I wrote my university dissertation on a word processor, but many of my fellow colleagues were beginning to buy £1,000 laptops with 10GB of memory. It’s been about 10 years since I was last in a classroom and I’m sure much has changed in those years.
The Ofsted report wasn’t all bad, as inspectors found excellent examples in primary and secondary schools of design and technology teaching. What’s needed, however, is more consistency, and more opportunities for teachers to develop their skills and benefit from specialist training.