Friday, 13 September 2019

Computer knowledge and inequality in Primary School.

There are several rudimentary tech skills that every year 7 pupil should start High School with.
By this age, it would be beneficial if a pupil knew how to complete their school work with a minimum of anxiety. In my experience, we currently do not have parity or equality when it comes to children transitioning into high school. Knowledge levels will be varied depending on the school that the pupil came from and the structure that the school has in place. Some children will complete their first assignments with minimum effort, focusing on the topic, instead of the technical problems, and others may become overwhelmed and anxious, which would lead to a loss of confidence and worry.

What skills do I mean? I'm talking about advanced skills that reduce anxiety and pressure when the expectation is put on a child to complete a specific piece of work. Just using presentations and an example, (feel free to use as a checklist) in order of complexity;

  • Adding slides
  • Adding text boxes
  • Adding images to a document
  • Using 'undo' instinctively
  • Rotating an image
  • Adding a border to an image or text box
  • Changing the line spacing
  • Fine adjusting the transparency of a text box
  • Adding a shape image mask
  • Adjusting the order of objects 
  • Fine control moving of objects
  • Animating a presentation or adding transitions
  • Editing a master slide 
  • Grouping objects together
  • Exporting as a different file type
This is not an exhaustive list, but my guess is, most pupils can do the first three, whereas, knowledge of the others, would make them expert and more able. Similar lists can be made for word processing, publishing, spreadsheets, digital art, and block coding. 

Having two children one in Year 11 and the other in Sixth form, I know that they have required skills across a variety of different programs, starting with Google Docs they've mostly transitioned into MS Office online, or the more affluent have retail versions of Office. Usually, the cheaper Student Edition or copies given to them by their Teacher.

There's also the question of increased workload. The jump from infrequent homework assignments to regular, time consuming and in-depth means time management becomes more important, so it would make a lot of sense to introduce the children to online calendar apps and ensure they're making time for self-care.

The skills required for using spreadsheets, presentations, publishing, and word processing, are however mostly the same. So regardless of whether a school uses MS Office, HWB or G-Suite, the opportunity to up-skill pupils to the same level does exist, the question is, how do we tackle it and how do we know when we've got it right.

From a younger and younger age, pupils are starting to use these programs. But as parity is absent in pupil knowledge, the same is true of KS1 and KS2 teachers. We have some caring, amazing and genuinely inspiring teachers who are let down by the huge and swift advances in technology and the lack of training and development. From my 4 years volunteering and teaching, I know that the skills pupils require are alien to a significant proportion of great teachers.

However, the knowledge with teachers is hugely varied and as learning styles are different, this makes group training often frustrating. One on one training with a checklist and as long as it takes is the most effective method, but this would mean an army of trainers, working full time.

And it isn't going to get any easier. As technology refuses to slow down (who'd have thought children would be making movies in Key Stage 2 20 years ago?) the need for a more focussed approach to the problem is required. I am certain in the not too distant future, tomorrow's children will be using simple 3D modeling software and 3D printers. The accessibility is already there; Windows 10 comes with Paint 3D and the printers are sub £200.

So the challenges are clear.
We need to support our teachers better and enable them to share their knowledge.
We need to focus our efforts on ticking the boxes and ensuring all children have their knowledge pots filled with tech basics.

 The question is, where and when are we going to start, and what specifically are we going to do to achieve it?

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