Terry FishHeadteacher Terry Fish: 'confusion between teaching IT and using IT'The demand for computer proficiency has increased exponentially over the past 25 years, but the teaching of these skills hasn’t kept pace. And with only a passing reference to their practical application during lessons, schools are failing to ensure their pupils are IT literate and prepared for future employment, according to a Microsoft report launched at BETT 2011.

Of the 1,000 pupils surveyed in the Microsoft Education Future Workforce report (produced by the Hybrid Organisation project made up of business, public sector and technology experts), an overwhelming majority (85 per cent) confirm that they are self-taught and that their use of the internet outside the classroom is a more important source of information about technology.

Speaking to 16 to 18-year-old students, the report also highlights the fact that, despite the massive investment in education technology, 39 per cent of students think schools are not playing in the same ballpark as businesses and that there needs to be more engagement between the two. In addition, more than half (58 per cent) feel their understanding of ICT surpasses that of their teachers.

Although there is nothing wrong with students continuing to develop their skills at home, 61 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of classroom technology because “it helps them perform tasks more efficiently” and more than half (55 per cent) believe it helps hone their skills to pass exams Steve Beswick, senior director of education at Microsoft UK says businesses and schools should be concerned.

“The world has changed and is continuing to change," he says. "People are learning, communicating and working in different ways and education and businesses need to adapt in order to survive."

'Education sector not immune to cuts'

“The education sector has not been immune to recent budget cuts, but this is a time to transform education, re-invest in technology and integrate IT into every aspect of the classroom. We still need to encourage the development of skills at home, but ensure that within the school environment itself students are also engaging with each other and being taught the necessary skills for the future.”

But employers have their part to play also and need to think a bit harder about what precise skills are relevant beyond the classroom and help schools break them down into teachable classroom components.

According to the report findings, even though more than half of students feel they understand the ICT skills employers are looking for, very few are familiar with business technology. Only 39 per cent have some idea about web design and programming and a meager 7 per cent understand customer relationship management (CRM) and the role technology plays in its management.

Terry Fish, headteacher at Twynham school in Bournemouth, acknowledges the challenges for schools and employers but thinks there is still a need for formal IT lessons in schools. “There is confusion between teaching IT and using IT as part of the learning process,” says Terry Fish. “What we have found is that there is always a place for teaching IT as a standalone subject as there will always be skills that pupils have to learn. But youngsters today – the so-called Generation Y – are digital natives who know their way around far more things, such as social networking sites, than many of their teachers.

"These are young people who simply look at the world in a slightly different way. Regardless of the business decisions, young people today have a greater autonomy due to their approach to the internet and communication technology. Nothing is going to change this and so we either embrace that or not. Any schools, colleges or employers that fail to adapt will be outshone by those that do in the years to come.”

BETT 2011 logoBETT 2011, January 12-15
Olympia, London
Microsoft: stands D30/D40

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