Saturday, 7 November 2009

Teaching gets in the way!

After yet another crazy week of bureaucracy, punctuated by very enjoyable spells actually spending time with children, a number of us were chatting in the staffroom and comparing just how much paperwork we had. Most of it is a response to the soviet use of statistics which make certain predictions of outcomes for children. Where the results (done every 6 weeks) suggest that the outcomes will not be reached then there must be 'support' and 'intervention' for every child. Of course, I fully subscribe to the idea of support for all children but I prefer it to be given continually as needed, regardless of current outcomes, and I prefer to operate from a default position that children are not robots and that, sometimes, learning may be a little slower than it has been and children may have external issues that affect performance.

However, individuals do not drive the 'support'- statistics do. Equally, the interventions are onerous as they must all be logged and signed in order that there is evidence of support should OfSTED ask for it. Why inspectors do not simply ask children and parents if they have been supported is beyond me!

Arising from the discussions was a comment that we were all so busy that 'teaching was getting in the way'. Thankfully, we all realised how ridiculous this was and we all laughed about it. Nonetheless, there is many a true word spoken in jest......

Monday, 2 November 2009

Beware the fad that is ICT

We have had a training day today on the use of ICT and, given that our school is a new build, it has the wonderful type of ICT facilities that impress parents when they visit the school. Indeed, we have been shown a vast array of ICT programs and hardware which should, in theory, freshen up teaching and learning.

In fact, I do believe that a judicious use of ICT does enhance interest in the curriculum and that it helps to engage youngsters while developing real processing skills that they will encounter in the workplace. However, ICT and its use comes with significant caveats, especially where schools see it as the panacea to all things effective. Used badly, ICT merely acts as a distraction to learning, replacing incisive thought and knowledge with a set of fairly simple skills which rely upon software that is increasingly intuitive. When parents visit on Open Evenings they will surely be impressed by the graphics, the the sound and the multi-media offerings that the children have produced. However, how many of them would be impressed if they knew that the outcomes were a result of very simple and advanced user-friendly software and about 10 minutes of application from the pupils?

Increasingly, ICT is not supporting the curriculum, but leading it. Consequently, schools are not investing in books as they should, teachers are not teaching in the traditional sense of the word (yes that can mean some didactic imparting of knowledge) and much time is wasted 'researching' facts that a teacher is paid to recount very speedily. This leads to pupils who are no longer required to think, discriminate or apply skills based on sound knowledge. Instead, they make pretty, but ultimately vacuous presentations which do not in any way amplify underlying knowledge.

So, as a parent, do not be too impressed by flashy ICT facilities and remember that you can never judge a book by its cover. Where ICT supports a traditional curriculum based on knowledge it is fantastic. Where it attempts to lead on the basis of a skills agenda alone, it is mere window dressing.