ICTmusicRE - ICT versus computing

9th December 2011 at 00:00
There should be no conflict if you use a bit of insight

ICT as a subject is facing a number of challenges at the moment, and not least of these is an identity crisis. Ask most pupils what ICT is all about and they might well respond with statements about spreadsheets, databases, posters and PowerPoints. And most ICT teachers will recognise the parents who come to options evenings and seem convinced that because their child spends hours playing Fifa, gossiping on Facebook and watching YouTube videos of cats falling over then they must be "really good at IT". Look for careers in IT, though, and you will find a third discipline. One that involves networking, programming, troubleshooting and repairing computers.

So what is ICT? When talking to parents and pupils, I describe ICT as being about using existing applications to solve a problem. Modelling, website creation, video editing and many of the traditional ICT topics fall well into this area. The study of computers for their own sake, however - wanting to know how applications work and writing programs - is what I call computing.

There are many who think that ICT in schools should remain more or less as it is and that a practical knowledge of how to use applications is what pupils need to progress in the modern world. But this is akin to an approach to maths in which pupils learn how to count their change, but without all this complicated algebra stuff. Or an English curriculum that focuses on spelling, but without an explicit understanding of the difference between an adjective and a noun. These skills are important and every pupil should leave compulsory education with the basic day-to-day computer skills necessary to get by, but education is, and should be, about more than that.

I would never have thought my key stage 3 physics lessons wiring bulbs would be useful until I had to cobble together a get-me-home repair for a failed car battery 15 years later. Education is about giving pupils insights and experiences of the opportunities that are open to them and giving them enough knowledge to build the foundations for further education, training and experience. ICT is an important part of that, but so is computing.

Pupils should be exposed to computing, whether it be programming in Kodu, editing HTML, pulling the innards of a computer apart to see how easy it is to upgrade the RAM or looking at a text document in a hex editor. It is not a choice about whether we want to teach ICT or computing any more than it is a choice about whether we teach numeracy or maths.

Mark Clarkson is head of ICT and computing at Egglescliffe School in Stockton-on-Tees. Visit www.mwclarkson.co.uk



For a Scratch creative computing guide, try a resource from colport100.

For more resources on control, computing and programming to try with your pupils, visit the collection on the TES website.

In the forums

Find out how one teacher plans to make a display showing the differences between ICT and computing. Or join the debate on the future of ICT and computing.

Find all resources and forums at www.tes.co.ukresources013.

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