An article in today’s Guardian declares that Michael Gove has vowed to scrap ‘boring’ IT lessons, enabling schools to use teaching resources designed with the help of leading employers and academics. Having been approached by a school this summer to rewrite their ‘boring’ and ‘dated’ IT programme, this struck a chord. In developing a programme that met all the required learning objectives whilst being centred around a student led project, we found that lessons are always more engaging when they are relevant to young people.

The unpopularity of IT at school is a conundrum. Young people are on computers all day: laptops, smart phones, videogames – the list goes on. It also carries a wider reaching incentive: if our young people excel in IT today, it will stand them and indeed the UK’s economic prospects in good stead for tomorrow. And yet IT lessons still seem to be associated with little more than boring spread sheets and generic databases, as asserted by Gove in his speech.

When a school in Kent approached us to develop a new IT programme for this academic year, we knew that to make it interesting and relevant to young people, they would have to understand why it was important to learn those skills. This did not mean telling them that without the skills they would not get their GCSE or be able to work in computing, but meant allowing them to see for themselves the utility of being IT literate by carrying out their own team projects. For the year 8 group at the Isle of Sheppey Academy this meant coming up with a new item of clothing for a fashion line. Students used market research and data handling to make choices about their product. Suddenly when students want to find out how many people like striped jumpers or what the most popular colour for clothing is for boys, using the filter tool on Excel becomes a helpful tool rather than a duty which bears no relevance to them. There is an incentive: they want to develop a product that will appeal to as many people as possible so that they can earn maximum profit. This is far more real than learning about the filter tool because it is one of the KS3 learning objectives.

Enabling Enterprise promotes this kind of learning throughout all subjects. For business studies, students learn how to write an invoice because they need to collect their earnings from their start-up t-shirt company. Or for English they develop their persuasive writing skills by writing an article for the school magazine they have launched. The key is that they work together in teams, as we do in real life, towards a goal that they care about.

Written by Anna Chojnicka

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