does [it] not give staff more freedonm as they will
struggle to use
the open source applications.
I agree that many teachers of ICT (and hence their students) would
have considerable difficulty transferring their existing ICT skills to
alternative open-source applications. But why? Is this an immutable
fundamental characteristic of the learning process involved in
mastering new applications? I think not.
Rather the non-portability of ICT skills as taught in schools and
elsewhere simply reflects the comparative immaturity of today's ICT
curriculum. Let me explain why:
To begin with some people (mostly those who work in commerce) do make
the transfer to open-source applications with comparatively ease.
Furthermore long time IT pros' like myself can usually master the
basics of almost any applications that's thrown at us within just a
few short minutes. Therefore in theory it must be possible to switch
to alternative applications with comparative ease, if the original
application has been taught in the right way.
So what is it that IT pro's possess that school teachers and their
students don't have? The answer is fluency in ICT as a living
generic foreign language.
But surely this takes years to develop, doesn't it? Well yes, at
present it does... but it doesn't have to. That's because no one has
bothered to prioritise the learning of basic ICT skills that have a
strong commonality of function across a wide range of applications.
Let me give you a concrete example.
When teachers demonstrate to their students (or indeed their
colleagues) how to use standard software applications, most tend to
invoke functions by clicking on their icons displayed on a tool-bar or
a pallet. Now on the surface this might appear to be the easiest and
therefore the best option ...echoing how they themselves were taught.
However tool-bars, pallets and even the images within icons tend to be
unique to each individual application.
Furthermore, tool-bars can be edited and pallets moved or even hidden.
This serves to make common or standard functions non-transferable
across applications. Independent use of a particular application may
also become dependent upon how this has been configured within a
particular school or even how this has been set-up on a particular PC.
Teaching ICT in this restrictive way is somewhat akin to teaching what
is claimed to be a modern foreign language, but in practice is no more
than a miss-mash of slang, colloquialisms plus a selection of phrases
from a highly localised dialect.
What's a better approach? Well, almost every function within an
application is readily accessible through the ubiquitous drop-down
menu system. Furthermore most drop-down menu systems have an
application-independent standard structure that's both consistent and
highly logical --
'File'; 'Edit'; 'Insert'; 'etc...';
Hence once a student has learned how to access a particular function
via the drop-down menu system, this skill is immediately transferable
to almost any other software application that utilises the same or a
IT pros' such as myself instinctively tend to use the menu system,
rather than pallets and tool-bars, when accessing anything other than
the most obvious functionality. This makes perfect sense, given the
menu system tends to closely reflects the functionality of the API
(applications programming interface) used by the designer who
constructed the application. In fact when adding functionality to an
application, usually one links this first to the standard menu system.
Linking to pallets, tool-bars and icons usually comes much much later.
Now imagine what would happen if the writing of English prose was
taught in schools without first teaching or making any reference to
'the ABC', part of speech (nouns, vowels, adjectives, etc),
punctuation and sentence construction. Yet that's exactly how we
currently set about teaching ICT in our schools!
In conclusion; what's needed is a clear focus on teaching ICT from the
perspective of a 'modern foreign language', rather that simply
encouraging students to memorise and then parrot selected extracts
from 'XYZ' School's '3rd-floor-ICT-suite' machine specific
configuration of the 'MS-Word Phrase-Book'.
...and that's what I have been working on for some time now --
portable teaching skills that are fundamental to a far more
mature future ICT curriculum.
Furthermore it's also my intention to both develop and publish a
sample 'ICT fundamentals' curriculum for use in schools on an
open-source basis. This will feature teacher-friendly schemas,
comprehensive lesson plans, teaching guides and support materials.
Will this be fully compatible with the current statutory ICT National
Curriculum? Yes it will. For I see no conflict whatsoever with the
current NC including the standard 'Levels of Attainment'. In fact
approaching ICT in manner similar to how a modern foreign language is
taught will help to make the ICT NC a lot easier to implement in a
Now if anyone on this list is interested in joining me in this venture
then do please let me know.
TeacherLab / Education-Support
Installing them as well as learning to
use them. Adults find it harder to transfer skills. Those that can
cope and don't mind changing (they enjoy using their free time this way)
probably will anyway.
> The present
> National Curriculum for ICT is limited in its content.
No its not. Have you been right through the KS3
Its content is not defined in the statutory documents because it needs
to be flexible enough to change with the development of ICT. Take for
example the day we discover how to store graphics in a format that has
the advantages of vector and bitmap.
> > It was sensible for the KS3 streategy materials to be produced in MS
> > office format (and pdf BTW)
> Yes but is PDF open source and can you manipulate it as is required by
> the strategy?
I wasn't suggesting it was, simply making sure I
wasn't just in an
anti-microsoft debate ;-). You can manipulate it if you have acrobat or
the skills to use the reader to export the data.
I am beginning to more fully understand the debate
now. I think there
will be huge resistance to changing. Microsoft are so good at adding
easily accessible function to their applications that excite people.
Time is short for teachers. Having to spend too much of your free time
to adapt and work around software to come up with the excitement is a
block to changing to open source.
> as they are the most common format in use in
> > schools AND Oo etc can read them. As I understand it the materials
> > for special schools will use Macromedia Flash
> instead of Excel.
> Flash is now a spreadsheet?
Whoa there... We don't teach spreadsheets in the
NC we teach modelling.
Special school pupils cannot handle spreadsheets for modelling so
people are developing flash models because of the ease of doing this and
because you can make it fun to use.
> There are
> > one or two other examples of none MS products that are suggested for
> > use especially for sound/video and database work.
> Only because there are now MS versions that are free to use
I think you missed out the word "none"?.
But OK I no realise this is
not simply an anti-MS debate.
> > Now if you mean produce materials and sample teaching units that use
> > open source applications then fine. Good idea and I hope the
> > emphasis is on K+U for ICT capability and not on skills in any
> > particular Oo or open source application.
I'd be happy to lend my time to creating an
alternative set of sample
teaching units using open source file formats and applications.
> > If anyone has info on a decent easy to use open source educational
> > programming tool that can be understood by weaker visual learners
> > (eg. similar to Flowol) then let me know where it is.
> > Similiarly we also need an open source gateway/portal product that
> > uses decent encryption for schools to use as their communication and
> > MLE tool. I have looked at Moodle but it has to integrate with the
> > normal authentication methods. One login for everything. I'm
> > obviously not an expert in these things but I need information to
> > help me consider the options. Part of my work is in piloting the
> > Microsoft Learning Gateway for schools (Basically a combination of
> > Sharepoint and Class server). I'd love to have a better, faster open
> > source alternative that integrated well.
> try Plone regards garry
OK I'll have a look.