H4cked Off: Has Michael Gove learned his lesson?

By Peter Gothard
10 Feb 2014 View Comments

Michael Gove may be one of the most reviled figures in British political history; or so it's felt this week.

Further reading

Firing Ofsted chief Baroness Sally Morgan, then suggesting 10-hour school days seem to have cemented the education secretary's dodgy reputation with "the left".

But, weirdly, from an IT-focused perspective, it's beginning to look like Gove may actually be starting to demonstrate a greater understanding of the wider needs of his national curriculum IT reform.

I attended the BETT conference in London a few weeks back, and chatting off (and occasionally on) the record with several educators, the overriding message seemed to be: "We don't like him, but we're rising to the demands of his impending curriculum, and it's actually beginning to help our educational process across the board."

Part of the advantage teachers seem to be experiencing is, when buying into IT initially to try and shape up for the Computing curriculum, they're starting to disover that extra devices, robust networking infrastructure and a focus on finding teachers or other techies with the knowledge to impart wisdom and ideas to students is helping across the board. When headteachers, subject teachers and support staff come together through IT solutions, they're seeing benefits for education that aren't just about using computers in the traditional way.

The section of the argument that's been rattling bones since Gove's original announcement of revision two years ago seems to be sorting itself out in this way.

Ian Livingstone, who wrote the original NESTA report upon which many of the curriculum reforms are based, pleaded for schools to consider the use of IT to access so-called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) when he appeared on a discussion panel I chaired last year.

Whereas a year back, many teachers I spoke to had never even heard of them, they now seem to at least know what a MOOC is, with many already embracing such output from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others, and actually fitting them into a school week as a standard feature.

But a voice that the likes of Miles Berry, ex-chairman of Naace, a national association that promotes learning in IT, and outspoken SET founder Bob Harrison, felt was always missing from the discussion of IT in education was that of Gove himself.

"Code, code, code," he'd always say, while neglecting the counter-argument that, to paraphrase Harrison, not everybody's going to be the next Alan Turing.

Gove's BETT speech this year started to hint that, finally, he's stopped banging the drum of teaching five-year-olds to bug test, and has started to embrace the wider discussion. Perhaps he knew all along, and just felt the need to hammer home something blunt and effective that Daily Mail readers everywhere could get hold of.

Or perhaps he's finally listened to advice. But talking about MOOCs, 3D printing, Instagram and even - oo-er - the saucy world of SnapChat, is a definite move in the right direction.

But it gets better. As announced at BETT by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock (a name you may become familiar with if Gove continues to lose popularity), the newly-formed Education Technology Action Group (let's call it ETAG) did indeed meet in early February as planned.

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