ICT - Are you looking on and up?

ICT plays an important role in encouraging risk-taking and creative thinking, says Gareth Mills

Gareth Mills

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is the title of a book by Toby Young that has recently been made into a film. The title is, of course, a witty inversion of the influential 1936 book by Dale Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People.

This week I have been asked to sit on a recruitment panel, and seeing the film advertised got me thinking about the specification for the job.

What sort of person is the panel looking for? "Good communication skills required, ability to work with others in a team, able to show initiative and be willing to take responsibility."

I thought of Toby. Is there a job on the planet that wouldn't specify this? I've yet to see the advert saying: "Mediocre communication skills acceptable, mumbler preferred. Ability to infuriate others desirable, irresponsibility advantageous."

In designing the new secondary curriculum, everyone involved in its development, including employers, educationists and young people, recognised the importance of these essential life skills.

As a result, the new secondary curriculum sets out these skills in six groups. It's called the personal, learning and thinking skills framework (PLTS). A look at the curriculum website (curriculum.qca.org.uk) will show how every subject has identified opportunities where these skills can be developed and applied.

ICT has a particularly important contribution to make. If you look at some of the PLTS titles, independent inquirers, creative thinkers and team workers, it's clear that the sort of intellectual capabilities central to the ICT curriculum are fundamental to these wider skills too.

Let's think about inquiry skills. Apparently 2.7 billion queries are entered into Google every month. We say: "I'll Google it" - we have a new verb. Given that there is so much information available, of both exceptional and dubious quality, the ability to find, critically evaluate, select and use information intelligently is more important than ever.

Ask the dossier writers about this one. The capacity to ask: "Who wrote this? Why? Can I trust what I've found?" is critical. How about creative thinkers? The provision of digital information is significant. The ease with which it is possible to edit and alter things is a real bonus when it comes to exploring options.

Whether we are changing variables in a mathematical model to ask "what if" questions, or using the undo and save as features to explore alternatives, technology can encourage risk-taking and creativity.

Many schools are planning for PLTS across the curriculum. ICT co- ordinators should also surf the PLTS wave and use the opportunity to raise the bar for ICT.

Later today, the recruitment panel will be shortlisting and sorting out who doesn't know their Outlook from their Excel, because as you would expect, every person specification these days also says . good ICT skills essential.

Gareth Mills is head of development and implementation in the curriculum division at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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