Computers have a Split Personality

Computers in schools lead a double life:-

  • You must learn how to use them

        to communicate, handle data, model things and to measure and control devices

  • They also help you learn every subject

        for example, writing, researching, geography, science, etc.

Putting this into educational terminology, you have:

  • ICT (now called Computing) 

        a school subject: -a set of skills to acquire and master

  • Computers across the curriculum

        using new technologies to support and enhance all other subjects

Special Educational Needs
There's one other aspect to computers in schools. In the case of children with special needs it can actually give access to the curriculum - something that was previously impossible.

Imagine Professor Stephen Hawking. Had he been born ten or twenty years earlier, he would have been imprisoned in his body. With new computer technology to support him, he is a university professor and world-renowned scientist and author who has changed our thinking and will be remembered as long as Isaac Newton.

ICT becomes Computing
The dual role played by computers wasn’t clear at first but it became obvious as the technology improved. In the early days it was common for a class of children to go into an IT lesson and learn how to use a database with a small set of fictitious data, and then go on to a humanities class to study, for example, house types and values in the local area. Clearly, mastering the database could have been taught as part of the humanities course using real, local and relevant data. These days this is fairly self evident and a class of children who are not accessing global datasets to use in their studies might be seen as disadvantaged.

But as you can easily imagine, this dual role did lead to problems - who should teach ICT Capability and how could you ensure that everything was covered if it was scattered across the other curriculum subjects?

Sadly, ICT gradually diminished until it became more about mastering Microsoft’s Word and Excel in many curriculum subjects and less about mastering the skills of ICT Capability - and the programming strand in particular (Measurement and Control) became increasingly neglected.

Eventually, ICT as a subject had become somewhat discredited - wrongly in my opinion - and the government declared it to be boring. A consultation was launched and in due course it was announced that Britain's future prosperity was dependent on a generation programmers and coders coming out of school as soon as possible.

So, in September 2014, Computing replaced ICT as the subject taught in schools. Find out more in the Computing pages later in this section.

Next page: Why was it called “ICT” . . .

Previous page: Computers in Schools . . .

© Brian Smith 2015