Category Archives: 2.2 Education Systems & Prof. Responsibilities

Comment on the draft Technologies Es & Os (ICT)

Unfortunately, due to work commitments I can’t make it to any of the Technologies Es & Os days that our colleagues from Education Scotland are holding. In an attempt to contribute to this ongoing work I offer my observations/comments about the draft CfE Technologies Es & Os -with a focus on the ICT aspect of things.

Now, I fully appreciate and value the change in emphasis Nationally on embedding coding in the primary school experience however, I feel as though we have moved too far in terms of emphasis on this in the new Es & Os. There seems to be such an emphasis on this area now to the detriment in learning that other aspects of ICT can offer. Also, for an area that appears to be dependent on volunteers for Barefoot computing or volunteers to run Code Clubs I think this emphasis is somewhat not matched up with an expectation that this really is a responsibility of all and as we all know the concept of coding has been an explicitly stated Outcome in CfE at second level ever since they were published. Is this volunteering thing a part of a longer strategic plan to look to embed this in schools, TEIs etc?

One of the issues that I have when I read the coding Es & Os is that they come across to me as if they were written by a secondary computing teacher. I do not see the primary teacher voice in there. I remember working with colleagues who were secondary computing teachers in the past when I worked in this area but there was real ownership of the language and context in this by the primary teachers involved but this was informed and influence by expertise of the secondary teachers. Now , even as someone who has some experience/expertise in the use of coding in the primary context, I feel that the language used will a little threatening for many teachers new to this coding switch.

More importantly I am trying to see the progression in this area of the Computing Science section section


If an Early or First level learner is programming a programmable device or on-screen object will they and the teacher look to to fix (debug) the thing it it doesn’t work. It seems that the word building in 1st Level is replaced by design and create at 2nd Level. The mention of a coding language comes in at 2nd Level though. Maybe the benchmarks will help in making this area more understandable. I would argue that there needs to be a clearer pathway through the levels here. As they stand I don’t see a huge deal of difference between the ones in this example.

I was involved in a Twitter discussion the other day about the framing of ICT/digital skills being only used to consume materials and that computing science was the digital context where the creation of material would happen. The inference that I took was that creation is stronger than consumption? The creation and not just consumption mantra is one that I fully recognise and subscribe to as well however we must be careful that we do not lose sight of the rich learning opportunities in terms of creativity in the ICT/digital literacy domain. At present the Es & Os in the draft are pretty sparse in relation to this. For example, take the audio and video domains – there is no explicit mention of these in the draft. The exponential rise in use and popularity of YouTube and video as a learning tool/space is something that we maybe should be tapping in to more. We have our video channels now in Glow as well so why are we not making more of this area? Are we still going to ask children to write newspaper reports when more and more children haven’t seen a newspaper and when so many of them have capture cards and their own online video channels? Are we serious about this ‘jobs that don’t exist’ scenario or not (although I’d argue that has always been the case)? Where is our joined-up and forward thinking here? Again, I would argue that the draft Es & Os and the strategy that they reflect should be taking this in to consideration.

Lastly, the promotion of tools for collegiate/collaborative learning in Glow are promoted quite a deal by Education Scotland. We see so much about OneNote, Yammer, shared docs in O365 etc and yet there is nothing in the Es & Os about how learners can develop the skills necessary to help them become effective learners/contributors in the digital domain. It is not enough to be able to search the web, collect knowledge and be safe online – our children should be schooled in the art of writing and owning the web – it must be central to their thinking and behaviour. This can be done through purposeful contexts to explore coding as well as using the tools made available in Glow or Google for that matter. This is just not coming through in these Es & Os. I think the Mozilla’s Write, Read, Particiapte Web Literacy Framework and even the JISC Web Literacy framework should be points of reference for the further discussion around these draft Es & Os.

An opportunity was missed way back when with the first iteration of the CfE Es & Os were drafted. No account was really taken of the explosion of Web 2.0 at that time. We have to get these right this time.

The Shape Detective says Teacher Education is Good

In the not so distant past, I, as a fresh faced teacher education student was introduced to the idea of context creation as a way to create a framework that could make learning accessible, relevant exciting and purposeful. At that time there were two documents that were being used to articulate the thinking behind context creation and that explored the tensions between and benefits of a thematic approach to learning and a subject specific one. These documents were Mr Togs the Tailor and Some Aspects of Thematic Work. These inputs proved to be hugely influential for me and I came away from them convinced of the efficacy of the arguments for context creation and captivated by the prospect of creating the conditions for learning where I could ‘suspend children’s disbelief’ in order to take them places with me as we all learned together. I subsequently made this approach an integral part of my professional practice and from the mid 1990s onwards I created contexts such as the Ghost of Charles Dickens which then led on to a whole host of ideas based around, amomngst other things, contextualising computer games and learning

It was with some delight then that I saw, what I think, was a very good example of context creation when I went to carry out an MA4 (Hons) summative visit (a crit in old speak) as part of our assessment procedures. The student in question, Emma Hopkirk, was placed in a P.1 class at Hillisde PS in Dundee. Emma has kindly given me permission to share what I saw with you.

I was ushered in to the class first thing on a Monday morning and took my place at the back to ensure that I had a good view. The professional files were all ready for me to review and I watched as the student (Miss Hopkirk) welcomed the children in to the class. It was clear to me that a very strong relationship had already been established by the student as their was a lovely atmosphere in the room. She sat them on the carpet in front of the whiteboard and then she began her carefully crafted lesson:

Miss Hopkirk: “I was looking through my emails last night and do you know something, I received another email from…
P.1 Class: (Children looking at each other wide eyed and excitedly whispering,”It’s the Shape Detective, it’s the Shape Detective…”)
Miss Hopkirk: Can you guess who?”
P.1 Class: (all in excited unison) THE SHAPE DETECTIVE!!!
Miss Hopkirk: “Yes, the Shape Detective. Will we have a look at his latest video message?”
P.1 Class: (all in excited unison) YES!!!
Miss Hopkirk: “I wonder what he’s got to say…”

At this point I too had bitten the contextual hook that Miss Hopkirk has thrown out to her class and watched intently to see what the Shape Detective has to say in the latest of his video messages to this class…

The video (created by Emma and hosted on her own YouTube channel) appears, tastefully done in a mysterious 1940’s style of flickering black and white. The central character ( a friend’s partner played the Shape Detective) is dressed up as if in a disguised and mysterious fashion with hat, dark glasses and a detective coat! He then proceeds to speak to the children. Here is the video that I saw…

The children were totally captivated by what the Shape Detective had to say. Each and everyone of this P.1 class hung on to every word that was said and their eyes did not flinch from what this mysterious but valued partner in their learning had to say to them.

The video finished and just as it did there was a loud knock at the door. In came the class teacher holding a parcel wrapped in gold (the letters being returned by The Shape Detective)…

Class teacher: “Excuse me Miss Hopkirk but a parcel for P.1 has just arrived.”
P.1 class: (excitedly talking) “That’ll be from the Shape Detective!”
Miss Hopkirk: “Shall we open it?”

You can guess the response.

The lesson then proceeded as Miss Hopkirk then took the children round the activities that she had set up that, just by chance, were exactly linked to what the Shape Detective was asking from them on this latest 3D shape mission! Magic! The children were so on board with what was going on and I even saw some of them jumping up and down and clapping their hands with glee at the prospect of finding out more about 3D shape.

This was teaching.

So many of our students, like Emma, are about to embark on their induction year already at the stage where the are using a range of digital tools and other resources in a confident, thoughtful, creative and purposeful manner to enrich the learning experiences of the the children in the classes they teach.  As our students Graduate from the University of Dundee today I wish them all the very best for their future in teaching. The example of Emma Hopkirk’s practice and so many more of what I have seen from our student teachers affirms my confidence in teacher education and tells me that we are doing so much that is right and that our new teachers will make a huge contribution to ensuring better outcomes for all learners.