Education Quandary: Why should learning about computers and technology be put at the heart of the primary school curriculum?

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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

This parent spends all her time trying to get her children off the computer and into the fresh air, and is appalled to read that ICT (information and communication skills) is at the heart of the proposed new primary school curriculum, due to come in by 2011.

I sympathise, but can also see why children need to be taught how to manage digital media. Everyone in the world will need to know how to manipulate text, video, music and pictures, and how to evaluate information – and use it effectively.

My fear is that precious school time will be wasted on teaching pupils things they already know. At the moment, only about a quarter of primary schools teach ICT well. Many teachers haven't a clue how to use ICT in the classroom, and the equipment available to schools is still inadequate. Poor ICT teaching leaves pupils sitting mindlessly in front of screens producing pointless, ill-written materials.

Good ICT teaching, on the other hand, is exciting and enhances learning. Writing blogs, creating video diaries and podcasts, and producing spreadsheets and presentations, can all improve numeracy and literacy, and, when used with skill and imagination, light children up about learning. Technology can also draw parents into school life, through shared blogs and videos of school events.

As always in schools, it's all about the teachers. Great ones turn technology into a great tool for learning. Poor ones just turn their pupils off.

Readers' advice

Schools need to teach children about the personal computer, the internet, and "office productivity" software as they are the basic tools that everyone from the stay-at-home parent to the chief executive officer needs to be familiar with. The school IT curriculum can also address potential technology-related problems such as data privacy and online stranger awareness, internet security scams, and how to avoid viruses. Teaching children how to use technology appropriately is just like teaching children road safety when we buy them a bicycle.

Simon Perry, Berkshire

This is another shameful move on the part of our meddling government. There is no evidence that putting more computers into schools has any effect on children's learning, unlike the evidence for books and reading. To elevate the teaching of computing over science, which will no longer be a core subject, is unbelievable. Computers are a tool. To turn them into a subject is just plain stupid.

Jane Abrahams, Hertfordshire

You have to teach pupils about technology or the gap between the bright children, who will teach themselves at home, and the others will grow wider, leading to a two-nation society. Also, it is important to teach pupils that they cannot believe everything they find on the internet. But no one can use technology if they can't read and write, so that must still come first.

Arshad Patel, Middlesex

Next Week's Quandary

I feel out of step with my school and don't know what to do. Our head believes in a rewards-based culture where children are motivated by praise not punishment. Children are applauded for every little thing they do. I try to run my classroom differently, but it's a battle I am losing.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@ btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com where they can be searched by topic.

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