Beware of Pandora's inbox

16th March 2007 at 00:00
Helen Yewlett is a former ICT teacher

There is a consultation process on the national curriculum subject orders happening in Wales at the moment. My interest is ICT and I have just read the key stage 23 proposals with interest. It soon had me thinking of my experiences in the classroom. The KS2 programme of study seemed straightforward enough. But what of the "skills" and "ranges" set for KS3?

It seems the problem lies in the resources and timetable allocation, so often the big dilemma in secondary schools. The skills laid out in the KS3 programme of study, under the title of Create and Communicate Information, says that pupils should be given opportunities to "create and develop a range of presentations for specific purposes and audiences".

Ok, most secondary schools are able to offer pupils access to PowerPoint, simple slides and a projector. But, under the proposals, pupils shoud also be given the opportunity to use digital images and video. How will schools budget for this?

We are talking of digital cameras and camcorders here, highly portable bits of equipment that could find themselves on the other side of the school gates with the blink of an eye. And then we come to another pupil opportunity: to create and modify sound.

It is a bit more difficult to smuggle out musical keyboards, but who has them, the ICT department or music? Who is responsible for making sure every pupil has had the opportunity to create and modify sound. Who records the pupils' ICT skills?

But it is the email thing that really got to me. It's under the Skills heading of "share and exchange information electronically". It goes on to give an example of the collaborative use of emails with attachments, hyperlinks and web pages.

Yes, of course everybody should know how to use email and how to send attachments. It's just that hormones have started kicking in by KS3 and just how can one teacher monitor all the messages that pass between the pupils, or indeed any one in the world?

Allowing pupils such access is like opening Pandora's Box. Mercifully, when our local rugby club received some rather horrid emails from our pupils, it helped us to nip in the bud quite rapidly. I did toy with the idea of setting up hotmail addresses for the pupils and telling parents to regularly check their own child's inbox. It seemed a good, time-saving idea at the time.

But the only scheme that worked was monitoring every pupils' screen from my desk, and stopping offenders with one touch of my mouse. Emails are a nightmare. Perhaps schools should have full-time monitors set up so they can scan all the email traffic in one school.

Please read the subject orders for yourself and reply honestly. You had better be quick - consultation ends on March 30.

* onal-curriculum-orders?lang=en

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