I've been listening to to the sublime voice of Mika for a couple of months now, ever since I saw his name crop up on so many people's lists of 'names to watch for 2007' and since catching him on an episode of 'Later ... with Jools Holland'. YouTube helped me by showing me some live footage of him performing and I've been captivated since. I got the chance of tickets to see him at London's Koko, but dithered too long (grrrrrrrrrrrrr!) and after he won BBC's 'Sound of 2007', tickets have become worth more than a snooker-table sized flat in Chelsea.
Anyway, I was very impressed to see that Mika had benefitted from the timely changes to the UK singles charts by becoming No.1 with 'Grace Kelly'. This was made in response to the vast numbers of digitally downloaded tracks which seems to be the main way people are obtaining music singles these days. Now that ANY single including those digitally downloaded - no matter when it was released - counts towards a chart position, we are going to see some amazing music charts in the future. It's an exciting time we live in right enough, and people like Mika are rightly benefitting.
This started me thinking about ICT as a subject and the fact that ICT has changed immeasurably since all of the last syllabi and National Curriculum strategy was written - yet these courses and syllabi dictate students computer experiences in schools today. Just as the UK singles charts were updated to take account of new technology, so indeed, I believe, should the UK's school curricula.
A recent discussion on the NAACE mailing list in which the demise (for want of a better way of putting it) of the KS3 ICT online test was roundly celebrated, made for interesting reading. This was originally conceived as a revolutionary test that assessed pupils' ICT performance, not with pen and paper, but through their use of a complex piece of software. One of the biggest criticisms on the mailing list cited 'a lack of wikis, blogs and other Web 2.0 social software tools'. Colleagues seemed to relish the opportunity to be like the cast of 'Murder on the Orient Express' and all want to stick the knife in.
I will state now that I was a co-writer of content for the KS3 test and a lot of the content was written over 3 years ago - when Web 2.0 wasn't even a flicker of an idea in Tim O'Reilly's head and few people had heard of wikis or Myspace or YouTube. So it seems astonishing to me that people would decry the test for lacking these tools. And here's a thought - only a year ago I did a presentation to 42 ICT Co-ordinators from schools in a city which shall remain nameless. When I asked how many of these so-called ICT experts knew what a wiki was only 2 ICT Co-ordinators put their hand up! So ICT colleagues need to remember that although the Web 2.0 bandwagon is rolling apace, its only barely been built and only a relatively few people are on board at the moment.
At the same time though, I completely advocate a more rapid updating of ICT syllabi as technology changes year on year and we need to encourage teachers, parents and students to use these rapidly evolving tools. How many schools ban the use of Flickr for example - despite it presenting immense educational possibilities? And how many teachers get the chance to explore this sort of package never mind incorporate it into their lessons?
Here we are in an age when all of this social software is out there yet no UK ICT syllabus explicitly states that these are tools that should be used. I think this is largely due to the sheer time it takes to plan syllabus changes, meaning that ICT syllabuses are obsolete by the time they are first implemented. But I feel there should be more flexibility to incoporate such tools and packages in lessons without feeling we are spending time on irrelevant topics or content. I have seen for myself the creativity that students can show when allowed to use these collaborative tools.