Why are teachers expected to be generating new material no matter “how rubbish it is”?

Why are teachers expected to be generating new material no matter “how rubbish it is”?

I was intrigued to learn that one of the five perceived challenges facing CAS is the problem of getting teachers to contribute resources to their web site “no matter how rubbish it is”. The idea is to engage new teachers in their grassroots community and have others to improve their work. Yet another of their perceived challenges is ‘quality control’.

Creating really good learning resources is hard work. “Design skills” are not; as far as I am aware, part of teacher training. It can take an awfully long time to produce engaging resources. Here are a few content creation considerations that need to be considered when creating quality resources:

  • Layout
  • Font, images, spacing
  • Illustrations and drawings to explain concepts
  • Minimising ‘cognitive overload’
  • Sequencing of concepts
  • Copyright (incorporating third-party materials)
  • High-end video production featuring real-life scenarios and interviews
  • Fit for audience, i.e. clarity of language, concisely written to the objectives and with the audience in mind.
  • Accessibility – ease at which resources can be produced in different formats depending on student needs
  • Use of interactive assessment

Teachers generally don’t have the technology, training or time to produce high-end engaging videos or electronic assessment games. I argue that they should be spending time teaching using existing resources. This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t contribute ideas and feedback into making new resources.

Industry wants more people trained in Computer Science. So how about ‘industry’ being more involved in the creation of high-end learning materials?

“Affordability” is one reason why there is a growing digital divide between students who have access to high quality materials and those that don’t. In recent years, businesses have been working to produce high-end online course material, but at a cost.

Unless you are lucky enough to receive a bursary, the fees charged by big tutoring companies are only affordable to the most affluent of families. They have a great range of courses and course materials typically aimed at 8-17 year olds; being delivered by students from leading universities. The move from ICT to CS in schools means that many students won’t get the opportunity to develop or become aware of digital opportunities that such companies offer, such as graphic design, animation, movie-making and virtual reality.

Teachers should be able to easily make use of existing excellent resources. There are many fabulously free online resources such as that made by code.org and Raspberry Pi. I applaud the efforts of the government funded Isaac Computer Science team for writing materials that are available to all – despite being slow to get the content online. Hopefully they will gather feedback from staff and students to make sure that the Isaac platform is as accessible as possible. I’d like to see the next stage involving the addition of assessment features that feed into teacher mark books.

Far too often teachers are either expected to, or feel pressured to create their own resources. Often they are reinventing the wheel. True, they can customise resources to their own learners. But good quality resources are generally accessible to all. This also aligns to the way that I believe Ofsted is moving away from “differentiation” and towards “accessible learning for all”. Unless teachers have the skills to produce great resources then it seems futile to compete with professional content creators.

In conclusion, let’s not push teachers to share their “half-baked presentations”. There are a huge amount of fabulous ideas and resources out there already. I’d like to see CAS working with Isaac Computer Science and Raspberry Pi to use government funding to collate together existing resources and produce materials that are accessible to all, and then signposting their amazing community towards great content. The ‘digital divide’ can be closed by pushing for the reintroduction of ICT skills in school that can be delivered for all students up to the end of KS4. This has monumental challenges including being able to recruit teachers capable of delivering a wide range of content from animation to video game design.

And for those that might be interested, the other perceived challenges expressed by CAS are: 1) loss of participation – probably caused many jumping ship to the more accessible Facebook platform? 2) Lack of presence on social media, and 3) miscommunication/toxicity

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