With the national curriculum being currently revised by the coalition Government, the question: What should be included in the ICT national curriculum? is being discussed by educationalists and teachers all over the country. With today’s technology, children are growing up with a natural ability to pick up a piece of technology and know the basics to use it within minutes. In fact, AVG (2010) claims that children are able to complete basic computer skills before they learn basic life skills. Therefore, mouse control and hand-eye co-ordination are not key skills that need to be learnt by a majority of children anymore once they are in primary school.
Kennington and Meaton (2009) writes children have more confidence with technology than we realise, even in Early Years children. The draft Programme of Study appears to represent this as the aims include children being able to write and use “algorithms, data representation, and communication protocols.” (DfE, 2012, p1). These skills can be considered “specialist skills” (Kennewell et al, 2000) as they are skills that professionals would be expected to use. Due to these skills being of a higher level at a much younger age, teachers feel less confident about teaching ICT in the classroom because of a lack of knowledge themselves (Kennington and Meaton, 2009).
Another aim stated in the draft Programme of Study is that children can
“critically evaluate and apply information technology (including new or unfamiliar technologies) confidently, responsibly, collaboratively and effectively to solve problems and work creatively.”
(DfE, 2012, p.1)
This is in reference to children having an understanding of digital literacy. West (2012) writes that most learners go into higher education with the inability to cross over their knowledge of technology into other areas and this lack of digital literacy can affect them in 90% of jobs. Therefore, it is our job as primary school teachers to instil confidence with technology to the children at a young age. This also implies that cross-curricular activities are important as being able to apply a skill in an ICT setting and then being able to apply the same skill into a different subject may be a hard concept for children to accomplish. Digital literacy is now a section in the curriculum which children are expected to develop in order to let them use ICT creatively and critically for the purpose that they want. This ability to use ICT independently is what teachers hope will happen, as this will prepare them for adult life.
A part of digital literacy is that children need to be critical and evaluate the tools that they are using which includes online and offline tools. E-safety is a major issue within primary schools as even if unsuitable websites are blocked, eventually children will come across inappropriate websites and children need to be aware how to deal with them appropriately. Similarly, children need to be taught how to deal with cyberbullying appropriately. Websites such as thinkuknow can train teachers and offer activities to children in order to teach about how different situations on the internet and how they can be dealt with. When using this website with Year 3 children, they were easily able to identify issues and many could use terms such as ‘attachment’ (considered specialist terminology). This implies that the current local authority programme is not aimed at children’s actual knowledge and this could result in children being disengaged during lessons and cause disruption in their learning.
In schools, ICT tends to be utilised in other areas of the curriculum as opportunities are in abundance. So many teachers take advantage of the opportunities because children can develop one skill while still developing an ICT skill. However, in order to gain the best from this children need to be aware how to use the technology that is helping them so much technology on a daily basis and many children can act as ‘experts’ in the class for those who are less confident. Based on ideas collected by teachers via a forum, this video was set up to inform teachers on simple ways to incorporate ICT on a daily basis.
Harris and Kington (2002) also writes to explain the impact of using ICT on a regular basis can have. In a primary school they provided Year 6 children with constant access to a computer, used writing for meaningful purposes (e-mail) and gave access to Challenge 2000. Results showed many improvements including, but not limited to, “increased ability to work independently (p.ii), “Increased confidence, self-esteem and self-discipline” (p.iii) and “increased ICT skills”(p.iii). All of these are parts of the aims of the new draft Programme of Study, which suggests that they are recognising the values that consistent access to ICT has.
Therefore, the national curriculum needs to concentrate on the specialist skills for example, computer programming rather than basic computer skills, for example how to turn the computer on. If children are extended in their ability to use computers in this way then their application into the wider world when they are adults is endless. However, children should be given many more opportunities to engage with computers in a meaningful way (not to play games on the internet) in order to experience the positive consequences.
Kennington, L. and Meaton, J (2009) Integrating ICT into the Early Years curriculum. In: Price, H. The really useful book of ICT in the Early Years. Abingdon: Routledge.
Kennewell, S., Parkinson, J. and Tanner, H. (2000) Developing the ICT Capable School. London: RoutledgeFalmer.