Learning the ropes by swinging from the branches

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CIOs remember their first PCs

The teaching of ICT in schools is a hot topic at the moment. Critics have long decried the formal ICT curriculum as teaching students a high level of competency at fancy slide transitions on PowerPoint, but leaving them with few truly valuable skills.

Now the government has waded into the debate, with Michael Gove announcing plans to axe the ICT curriculum in favour of computer science.

When I look back at my IT education, it was mainly through mucking about on my uncle’s HP-65 calculator that I got a feel for technology.

Hands up who else spent their evenings as a teenager reconfiguring their hard drive?

I know I’m not the only one. I used to take great pleasure in converting my 8-bit BBC Micro into a sampler, all the while secretly hoping I would be the next Duran Duran and that mass female adulation would follow.

And let’s face it, many of us still get to play with the excitement of technology and get paid for it.

But how did you learn to manoeuvre all those complicated systems? The chances are that you did a science course at university.

But your love of technology probably would have developed at an earlier age. By using your analytical mind, you would have learnt to create stuff and make things work using technology, largely through trial and error.

The IT world is all about tomorrow’s world, having vision and ambition for a future way of working.

CIOs globally are putting together the pieces of this new model, succeeding, failing and then succeeding again, and in turn creating systems that will be used in years to come.

And so the future generation of CIOs should to be encouraged to think about how the world will continue to evolve beyond where it is now, and learn about developing new solutions and adapting current systems to tomorrow’s challenges.

Unfortunately there is nothing ambitious about ICT in schools today. And yet it is young people who are adapting the quickest of all to new technologies. They tweet, download apps and buy online with astonishing agility and speed.

The last time my five-year-old got hold of my iPad, she managed to order two volumes of Peppa Pig in less time than it takes me to write a text message, all whilst topping my highest score on Angry Birds. It’s scary.

But what is more scary is that ten years on, she will be in secondary school, sitting down in a classroom of computers to be told how to download an app and format cells in Excel, as part of her ICT education.

Hardly inspiring stuff, especially for her classmate who has already built his own website and spent the weekend trying to hack into his dad’s bank account to buy virtual puppy food.

It’s like teaching someone how to use a calculator, instead of learning maths, or watching the film of Much Ado About Nothing, instead of studying the Shakespeare text.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Kenneth Brannagh fan – but it feels like we’ve missed something.

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