Coding 4 Kids vision for ICT education

I have believed for a long time that our ICT curriculum in the UK is vacant and uninspiring. At secondary school, we have taught many of our young people to hate ICT, and many talented and creative students decide not to progress the subject further at A level/college - precisely because of what we have taught them. It is educational failure on a truly epic scale.

The paradox is that ICT has the potential to be the most exciting, creative and relevant subject we can teach our young people in this modern, fast changing world. Students start with a natural curiosity and enthusiasm about the technology they use every day. As an educator this is the perfect starting point for learning, we now need to create something inspiring from this happy position!

But it is not enough to just do more with what we have. To achieve a truly inspirational curriculum, we first need to dump what is not relevant and interesting to our young people. This creates space within which we can grow. Too often education tries to tack another initiative onto what already exists, this dilutes the effectiveness of what we do. The power of blue sky thinking is in the empty spaces.

So what should we be teaching our young people?

It is important that our young people learn to use computer hardware and software to help them organise and present themselves, it is just not the most important thing to learn. The main focus of teaching the software packages they need to be familiar with, needs to be in using computers as problem solving tools, and in independently selecting appropriate software for each difficulty they encounter.

But if we are to equip our young people for a future where technology will affect their lives and work in ways we have yet to imagine, we should also be helping them understand what a computer is, how they work and how we program them. And we should be showing learners how to create software not just use it.

Central to this is the development of independent problem solving skills and creativity. The skill of breaking a problem down to solve it piece by piece can become the central pillar of our new subject.

Teaching programming is a perfect way to deliver this, it can start simply - with HTML and CSS, where students discover how to display their webpages - and gain experience of writing code for a purpose, using keywords and bug testing. There are then any number of free tools teachers can then use to teach students common programming concepts (variables, loops, conditionals, functions etc) .. From graphical user interfaces like scratch, Microsoft small basic, Alice etc .. to text editors and loosely typed languages like JavaScript.

Once students have an understanding of the programming tools they can use, we can have wonderful fun setting them challenges which they need to break down and solve in stages. This is a valuable life skill, one which they can use to solve their own problems in the future. ICT is perfectly placed to become a subject which rivals English and maths for relevance in todays world, where the ability to learn new skills and solve problems creatively is ever more important to employment and life success.

We should be inspiring our most creative minds to choose ICT as they specialise after compulsory education. Now let's create the learning experiences which make this happen!