Not Just a Teacher

binge thinking on technology and education

Not Just a Teacher

Still getting IT wrong

November 16th, 2011 · 5 Comments · General


by dingler1109

I fully intended to finally dump OCR Nationals and go forth into a new dawn of GCSE ICT. In fact I was quite excited about it and conveyed my emotions at having made the decision here. The Edexcel course seemed to offer so much but last night I sat through a 2 hour twilight training session covering the Controlled Assessment of the unit that is a large portion of the GCSE and by the end I was quite frankly, depressed. I wasn’t the only one either. I had all my department there and teachers from 3 other schools from my LEA. All were very turned off. The issues were:

  • Scenario – Upcycling

Surely, we can do better than this as a topic to inspire young people? And does this not sound a little familiar to those of us who have been doing OCR Nationals for the last few years?

  • Tasks – Spreadsheet model with linked sheets, lookups and graphs, a multimedia product, leaflet, a one page website and bucket loads of evaluation

Oh wow, how exciting that will be for my students to sit through hours of putting together this spreadsheet model knowing that they will never use this skill again in their school life nor likely in any job they get (and if they do they can just figure it out as they need to). The multimedia products, a more creative concept in principal but given the scenario and looking at what were given as sample work, nowhere near the quality or level of engagement I have had from students in Unit 4 OCR Nationals. A one page website, need I say more? Then finally, we have an evaluation. We were shown pages and pages of an evaluation done by a student to a good standard but it did not even get the highest mark. Who the hell in the ICT industry writes such exhaustive evaluations especially about spreadsheet models, little multimedia products and a one page website? Nobody. What an excellent way to turn young people completely off the idea of ever furthering any sort of career in this industry!

  • Assessment – Simple layout but….

What seemed like a simple assessment table, on application to sample work during last night’s session, turned out to be for all of us present very much a pin the tail on the donkey exercise.

So, how I am going to respond?

Well, I have spent significant time already researching, phoning, emailing, reading and using my PLN to gain an insight into the other specifications on offer and here is the crux of this post:

At GCSE, every one of the exam boards are STILL GETTING IT WRONG.

They are all dabbling in newer technologies and arguably Edexcel are doing this better than others (hence the reason I was attracted to the course) but when it comes to what they want students to spend hours doing on controlled assessment, there seems a uniform desire for students to work with spreadsheets and databases. I thought we had got rid of such requirements of covering these elements now that QCDA are no longer the Daddy.

Why is this emphasis on spreadsheets and databases still there? Is it not just as valuable or arguably even more so for a student to for example:

  • Design and create a learning game
  • Design and create an online collaborative site (wiki, social network, etc) which has to have user comments and these have to be managed (evaluation done as it would be for certain areas of the IT industry)

These would surely engage students to a much higher level than be more relevant to their lives and the skills they should be developing to prosper in a continually connected, online society. In fact better still, can’t we have what I detailed in DIY Spec where the teacher and/or students decide on their coursework/practical assessment but according to some sources I have talked to, that is not feasible. The reason for it not being doable: How would exam boards be able to get moderators able to mark these? Well, I am sorry but that does not wash with me. I am supposed to accept that my students cannot do what they should be doing; I cannot teach them and engage them how I want to because of practicalities?

Wake up exam boards please. Spreadsheets and databases can be covered by questions in an exam paper. Even a written evaluation if exam boards think they are so important, can also be done in the exam paper but  when you are expecting students to sit for hours and design/create something then give them the best bits of the course. I keep saying the word but I am going to say it again repeatedly: ENGAGEMENT, ENGAGEMENT, ENGAGEMENT.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Neil

    Excellent post 🙂

    I am just leading a class through a “mock” controlled assessment piece and they are struggling to see what the system will do and how to write it up – among other problems.

  • IaninSheffield

    And so the tail continues to wag the dog? Oh dear!

    Sadly you’re driven by and constrained within an examination/results-led culture Nick, otherwise you’d have the freedom to explore alternative mechanisms for awarding credit for your students’ studies and achievements. Perhaps along the lines of the ‘Badge’ ecosystem proposed here –

  • IaninSheffield

    Clearly in need of some html lessons myself! Let’s try What If Teachers Decided (for Themselves!) What Counts?

  • BobToms (@BobToms100)

    Nick, what you propose is a very good idea: a school develops own specification based on general and more specific assessment guidelines. Making it relevant, engaging and imaginative. An exam board could promote case studies & exemplars as good practice of successful projects.

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