ICT skills should be portable

During my training last year by far the most talked about of the ‘dreaded’ TDA tests was the I.C.T. test. This test involved completing a variety of tasks such as answering an email and bookmarking a website under timed exam conditions. All of the tasks were things that my colleagues did all the time- yet they still dreaded this test most of all, and many repeatedly failed it. Chats with those who attended other universities has suggested this situation is not out of the ordinary.

The problem people seemed to have was that the test took place on a made up operating system.

Most people’s complaints seemed to be centered on the argument that the test was not representative of their IT skills as it was an irrelevant system that they were not used to. Whoosh.. there goes the missed point.

After conversations with colleagues at different schools it worries me that many teachers and ICT admins are so reluctant to shift from Windows centric thinking. A colleague I was at University with told me that his school decided to spend their budget on a limited number of Windows machines rather than significantly more Linux ones because, “Linux is for geeks”. This saddens me. Certainly there are issues of support staff needing the skills to do their job (lets hope those are transferrable enough to manage the ‘made up OS’). However, I think it is hugely important for children to experience different systems for them to gain a true understanding of ICT, and truly transferable skills.

In order to develop these ‘portable’ skills and real understanding of IT systems, I really believe children need to experience different operating systems. Someone who has only used one system may easily have got by learning step by step instructions of how to achieve their goals without actually understanding what they are doing, or how the tasks are structured. For example, such a child can learn to find a file by clicking point 1, then point 2 etc, and replicate this every time. To locate that same file on a PC, a Mac and a Linux machine on different occasions requires them to actually think about how the file system is organised, and negotiate it through understanding of the concepts rather than simply learning a procedure by rote. This is a simple example, but as a long time Windows user I gained so much real understanding when I started using Linux and OS X simply because I had to translate my knowledge and skills into a different paradigm.

Surely as schools we should be setting up our systems in the way that has the biggest impact on childrens’ understanding, not that the one that is easiest to manage or conceptualise for support staff. This should be argument enough, without looking at the possible cost savings involved with using Linux based OSes on at least some machines in a school.

I am probably preaching to the converted with this topic on this blog, but I think it is so important that we provide children with a range of ICT experiences in schools, lest they end up like my supposedly ‘computer savvy’ colleagues.

Negotiated projects and Random Activity Generator
Sentence level starters

10 thoughts on “ICT skills should be portable”

  1. The other point that I always fi f fascinating is that many of those teachers will have had their first computing forays on an Arch; then maybe Win 95, Win ME & now getting to grips with 7. more differences than, say, XP & recent Linux distros. Have they forgotten all those changes?

  2. The other point that I always fi f fascinating is that many of those teachers will have had their first computing forays on an Arch; then maybe Win 95, Win ME & now getting to grips with 7. more differences than, say, XP & recent Linux distros. Have they forgotten all those changes?

  3. The other point that I always fi f fascinating is that many of those teachers will have had their first computing forays on an Arch; then maybe Win 95, Win ME & now getting to grips with 7. more differences than, say, XP & recent Linux distros. Have they forgotten all those changes?

  4. Interesting article. It highlights what is seen in the workplace so often these days that people know how to drive an operating system (mainly windows) rather than operate a computer system. Remove the familiar environment and users suddenly realise that they don't really know what they're doing.

    Remember, there is no spoon!

    p.s. I use Linux every day and repeatedly get called a geek. I've learnt to live with the stigma. One day the geek shall inherit the earth!

  5. That ICT skills test is ridiculous…
    I've not taken mine yet (which reminds me, I must book it) but I attempted the practice test online.

    I got bored two thirds of the way through (edit, copy, edit, paste didn't entertain me for long) and I didn't finish it. But I passed. So…?

  6. Fascinating. I had forgotten that the tests from the TDA involved a system that people don't use. This surely is ridiculous, no? A lot of ICT work in school has been criticised for being 'inauthentic' – not rooted in the way people usually use computer technology – taught in a kind of vacuum. And so, to set up a test for trainee teachers that goes one step further – to be based on a made up system, is crazy. This is the kind of thing that trainee students don't need – a model of bad practice – an exercise which has no real context – and added to that one which makes them lack confidence. There are enough barriers already stopping teachers using computers as part of their everyday world, without adding to it by putting them through an alienating test. So … rather than bashing the poor old teachers, I would say that the teaching, and the test , need to start where the teachers are. What do you think?

    1. I know what you mean about teachers confidence, those that need to pass the test (rather than those who are way beyond it) don't need more alienating. However, the point I was trying to make was that an out of context test like this tests true IT skills rather than just Windows literacy. I would hope that the made up system didn't phase people because they have the abstract skills to cope with it. I'd like to think that was the thinking behind it, but imagine the real reason is just because they didn't want to pay licenses to display copyright material from Microsoft, and had this not been an issue they would probably have made it look like Windows…

      1. Aha, I agree with you in principle … but think that the tests are just not through … as you suggest it is all done on the cheap (and the fact that the tests are run through centres rather than by training institutions is partly because of scepticism at the institutions) – The whole idea of the tests is not really about education imho. I think they are more about being seen to have vetting systems in the teacher profession. They wee introduced not long after a whole range of strategies designed indicate that teaching is a profession here standards are important. Thus not only do people have to have GCSE English and Maths but also a jumped up literacy and numeracy test. Cynic? Me? End of rant.

        1. That's an interesting point of view I had not really considered before. I was really using the tests as an illustration of the wider issues, but your are right there are issues for debate surrounding the role of those tests in general.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.