Roger Frost looks at the new guidance materials for IT in the curriculum from the National Council for Educational Technology. Curriculum developer, advisory teacher, staff development officer, and a useful person to ask if you want to buy a computer. Who? That's today's school IT co-ordinator the superstar who can parry any query: IT in maths? No problem. Music? A song. Science? Elementary.
Those who started the job wearing a suit once considered above and beyond the call of duty, now find themselves properly dressed for a serious management role. Or perhaps an impossible one.
No one of this calibre would have been ruffled by January's new national curriculum Orders for IT. Different emphasis, new status, fewer sentences plus more "ands" than ever before. Then came the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority's IT at Key Stage 3, adding lots of useful case studies of IT across the curriculum. Things were getting clearer.
What remains difficult is encouraging staff to fit IT into their subject and for that few could refuse the help of a new pack of advice which arrived in schools recently. Called Approaches to IT Capability, this might be the National Council for Educational Technology's cover version of the earlier SCAA number. Here, in 10 booklets with one for each national curriculum subject, is more advice for easing IT into the curriculum.
The IT co-ordinators get their own booklet. It gives ideas for staff development talking about how they might just target particular staff or departments and giving advice on running training sessions. It offers a model of a teacher's development in using computers and it eschews one-off, whole-staff training days for any more than IT awareness raising.
It talks about the pros and cons of running separate IT courses, or using IT across the curriculum or mixtures of the two. This is worth a read to review your position, but those who have made their minds up can be reassurred by the NCET's Keith Hemsley, "This is not a document to disturb good work in progress. If IT is working OK in your school, you'll not have to change things that much."
The remaining nine subject books will no doubt find their way into staff pigeonholes. The maths booklet, like the others, makes it easy for IT co-ordinators to spot which aspects of IT capability can be delivered in each subject. It also puts the learning gains offered by IT up-front. This one, for example, shows how drawing programs can be used to experiment with geometry or how a spreadsheet can create difference tables. The languages booklet shows several creative uses of word-processing and multimedia software. Design and Technology shows software for designing leaflets and packaging as well as ideas for control technology. I remain puzzled about using "a range of databases, relating to the size, shape and weight of a product". But I nit-pick.
There are, however, many exemplars worth passing on. I spotted IT co-ordinator Bernadette Nyman posting booklets at Maria Fidelis School in Camden, London. She too was impressed: "It makes subject teachers think about the IT in their own area and should enable me to have a good dialogue with them. The ideas are good, and they're all referenced to the national curriculum."
While the NCET's pack adds to the pyramid of curriculum paper, this should be a welcome mailing. It might not make you a superstar overnight, but it will help refresh parts of the curriculum you find hard to reach.
APPROACHES TO IT CAPABILITY
Approaches to IT Capability, primary and secondary editions, have been sent to schools in England and Wales - the Welsh schools receive them in English and Welsh.
The KS3 pack includes an IT co-ordinator's booklet and two copies of each of the nine subject books excluding PE (ie Mathematics, Science, English, Design Technology, Geography, History, Art, Music, Modern Foreign Languages). Additional copies cost Pounds 15 , Approaches to IT Capability Key Stages 12, Pounds 5.75. National Council for Educational Technology, Milburn Hill Road, Science Park, Coventry CV4 7JJ. Telephone: 01203 416994 Fax: 01203 411418.
The materials will soon be available on the NCET's Internet pages at http:ncet.csv.warwick.ac.uk