Corporate IT Forum

This is a companion post to the one that Brian Sharland (@sharland) has posted on his blog and is a reflection on the day that we spent talking with members from the Corporate IT Forum.  Many of you reading this post will already know that Brian, myself and Chris Allan (@infernaldepart) are the steering group for #digitalstudies and have created a wiki and moodle website to support this upgrade to the exisiting ICT curriculum.

To put things in perspective, the Corporate IT Forum comprises of many Chief Information Officers or equivalent from some of the UK and Europe’s largest Businesses.  They represent over 10,000 IT Professionals and have an IT spend of €35 billion per annum. They are obviously very keen to ensure that the curriculum being taught in schools meets their future employment needs and that it has the breadth to produce the IT professionals and leaders of the future.  Ultimately, they currently and will continue to present their findings to the Government especially in the run up to a possible new 2014 PoS.

Those in attendance at the Forum when Brian and I were invited (sadly, Chris couldn’t get away to London for the day) were almost twenty strong and included John Harris (Head of Global Architecture at GSK); Myron Hrycyk (CIO Severn Trent Water) and Orpheus Warr (Chief Architect, Channel 4 Television), to name-drop but a few!

The day started with Brian and I meeting face to face for the first time as all our meetings had been done in Google Hangouts or via Twitter Power.  After a few motivational words we were ready to go.  On arriving at the conference room it was quite daunting seeing the name tags (and corporate positions of those in attendance); however, we were made to feel very welcome.  I did have a concern that we were there to tick of a box (spoken to teachers? YES; invited teachers to speak? YES); however, it was very apparent that the Forum believes passionately in doing whatever they can to help ‘guide’ the Government to ensure that a flexible curriculum is in place that will ensure that the UK can produce IT Professionals and Leaders for years to come.

We were asked to present for about 15 minutes and Brian and I had prepared perfectly for our talks, half expecting that we would present, they would say thank and then we would move on.  With a lengthy Q & A we were talking for closer to 45 minutes.  All the questions were great and proved to us the genuine interest that all the members in attendance had.  Brian spoke about how #digitalstudies got up and running and the contents and necessity of having the four strands (authoring, literacy, society, technology).  He then went on to talk about the need for project based assignments that incorporated all four strands and that the projects must have a real world element.  To do this he used the Beowulf example which is similar to the one that can be found on the wiki.  He also commented on the need for ongoing evidence of pupils work in the form of a portfolio.  I then went on to talk about how the resources are organised on the wiki and the importance of freely sharing best practice amongst teachers.  The wiki is ideal for this.  In Chris’s absence I also spoke about #digitalbadges and how the development of these is crucial in giving learners a longer term recognition of their achievements.  Indeed, it is this recognition that learners can keep and develop on for life.

Both Brian and I highlighted that although we were an initial band of three, there are now up to 40 people that have signed up to the wiki and several schools that are trialling the idea from this September.  We also spoke honestly about the need for technical support and knowledge in terms of making the wiki more user friendly both in terms of adding new resources and retrieving existing ones.  The easier the wiki is to use, the more people will use it.  In a similar vein we also spoke of technical support for the #digitalbadges – after all, we all full time teachers with busy timetables!  The feedback from this conversation was very positive and we look forward to more communication in the future.

Other areas that arose during the meeting were the consistency of the skills required by the different examination boards.  The Forum, quite justifiably are very keen to make a case that the requirements for qualifications with the same subject title should be more consistent.  Preliminary conversations were also held about the need for projects in school to have a greater link to those that actually exist in business.  Early indications are that many of the members will look into the possibility of creating scaled down scenarios from their own sectors for use in schools.  The other exciting development was the preliminary conversation of getting more professionals to come and talk about their own careers in schools.  There are so many roles out there that involve IT, that it is unreasonable for a pupil to understand what a “career in IT” involves as it is such a vague expression.  We are also hoping to create links with the wonderful people at STEMnet who share the same passions as we do – hopefully more to follow.

These are definitely exciting times ahead – hopefully we will know much more when the minutes from the meeting are published.  In the meantime, thank you for all the support and constructive feedback.  To learn more about #digitalstudies and how you could implement it in your school take a look at the wiki, Brian, and Chris’s blogs as well as following the digitalstudies hashtag on twitter.