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How ‘geeky’ are our students? January 7, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Web 2.0.
Tags: , , , ,

We’ve been needing to audit our students’ ICT ‘capabilities’ for a while, but I’ve been hanging back because I wasn’t at all sure exactly what I wanted to explore.  I knew I didn’t want to look at whether they know how and why to use ‘styles’ in a word processing application or the difference between relative and absolute references or the features of a relational database.  There’s no point – I can simply ask my colleagues in the IT department and they’ll give me chapter and verse because it’s what they do.

geek chat

from Geek And Poke

No I wanted to explore more generic . . . ‘skills,’ for want of a better word.  Some of the aspects of ICT use which have only come to the surface in recent times.  Neither did I want this to be an ‘assessment’ i.e. a means of grading our students and monitoring their progress with time . . . I think we do quite enough of that already thank you very much!  No, this exercise is much more about taking a snapshot of what our students currently can do and are doing so that we have an idea of their range of experience and whether that picture is any different across the year groups in school.

To what end?  Well it’s another way of helping us plan the ways our provision and infrastructure ought to be developing and perhaps to provide insights into the areas colleagues might wish to develop in addressing students’ needs and interests.
Here then are the areas I thought we might want to explore:

  • School-produced and delivered online resources (our learning platform)
  • Their experience creating things online
  • Using online communication tools
  • The resources/tools to which they have access
  • Gaming
  • GPS-related resources
  • Online shopping
  • Accessing information online (searching etc)
  • Being safe online
  • Ethical considerations of using computers

Despite the shortcomings of using questionnaires, I suspect a survey tool is likely to provide the most efficient way of collecting data.  So if you’d like to see a draft of how the questions are developing, head on here.  All observations, comments and suggestions welcome.



1. daibarnes - January 7, 2011

Great idea Ian.

1. Communicating – no facebook option. Or BBM?
2. Shopping: no iTunes or app store – the most likely online purchases they will have made.
3. Safety at the end: this question needs a bit of work IMO. It makes a respondent feel daft for answering the bad side of things. Maybe the other way round? I keep all my passwords secret from everybody. True, mostly true, sometimes true – or something like that…

Would love a copy when you’re finished. Really good idea to get a benchmark of where pupils are with their IT rather than ours.

2. ianinsheffield - January 7, 2011

Thanks so much for such a fast response Dai. Points 1 & 2 duly noted and as for point 3, you’re absolutely right of course . . . schoolboy error on my part 😉

3. markbromley - January 7, 2011

Looks really comprehensive. Are you giving students dedicated time to fill in, or just putting it out there to collect general information? Quite long if you’re not alloting study time to it perhaps?

I wonder if one or two of the Ethical use section point fitted with the ‘daily,once or twice a week…’ e.g.the one about space in my school area.

Agree with Dai above- would love a copy!

ianinsheffield - January 7, 2011

Thanks for checking it out Mark.
That’s still an area we need to discuss in school at our Development Group, but you’re absolutely right, it is quite long and we may therefore need to edit it back a little.

You’re spot on with your comment about storage space – will change accordingly.

4. Cathy Darnton - January 7, 2011

I really like this Ian and think it could (with some of the tweeks suggested already) provide us with a powerful planning tool. Having visited Cardiff University recently with A level ICT students I think there would be milage in sharing this with such institutions and the sort of reaction they are making to new technologies, we saw some exciting stuff. The Enterprise Wireless project would certainly open up greater opportunities within our schools. Let me know if I can help in any way?

5. ianinsheffield - January 7, 2011

Thanks for the feedback Cathy and for the offer of help. Already taken on board Dai’s and Mark’s suggestions and will be amending the questions.

I’m interested in hearing more about how you think this might fit in with what’s happening in HE. Maybe when we next meet up? Or here 😉

6. David Gilmour - January 8, 2011

An interesting survey, good luck with it.

If we were to do this now, a key question would be: “What is the extent of computer access in school?”

This is clearly not to do with just skills, but is a key constraint on ability to deploy the skills…

Of course, access may not be an issue for you. We have equipped some classrooms, for the first subjects to need ICT access, but now need access in other subjects.

ianinsheffield - January 9, 2011

Good point David; thanks for the feedback.
As you say, your question may not appear to fit with skills, but I guess we’re trying to explore students’ overall experience and if they ‘feel’ they don’t have the access within school, then that too ought to be informing our planning.

Is access an issue for us? Well I guess that would entirely depend on who you ask? SLT, teachers, students … and even then I doubt there’d be a consistent reply from each group. My feeling is that across the board there are probably sufficient resources, but we don’t make efficient use of them. Like the majority of schools I suspect, we (currently!) don’t allow student-owned devices in school, other than Smartphones and they’re not allowed out in lessons. This of course raises several questions concerning equity of access and ethical use . . . but that’s for a different post perhaps?

7. Ian Ibbotson (t: @ianibbo) - January 16, 2011

Hey Ian, I’ve been meaning to get in touch for a while and your post was a timely reminder…

I was wondering if you’re familiar with any of the grassroots activity going on in sheffield (http://thegisthub.net). We’ve been trying to build links with local ICT learning/teaching staff and the learning/geek community, but it’s been slow going. It seems that there’s loads of activities that could really enrich informal learning like:
The arduino hardware hacking group, Data Jounalism through the open data group, and loads of coding/geek meetups for different environments.

Do you see any way to get info about these activities out to local ICT practitioners / interested students?


ianinsheffield - January 16, 2011

Hi Ian

I did check out The GIST Hub when we first linked up, though I have to confess to being more of a ‘learning freak’ than an IT geek! As for our school, we don’t appear to have a great number of students who might fall into this category … or perhaps it might be more accurate to say, we don’t have a forum which allows students with these interests to emerge.

Or perhaps I’ve just failed to pick up on what we in schools might learn from GIST. (I’ll contact you outside the blog re this)

In answer to your last question, I’m going to offer a couple of suggestions:
The most direct route in would be via the ICT Advisory Team at the local authority (if, given cutbacks, it’s still extant) or a more direct approach would be through Heads of ICT in the schools themselves.
There’s a group of ICT teachers on Twitter who are trying to effect change in the curriculum and though not local, they might be useful to link up with (http://ictcurric.org.uk/)
The Computing at School Group (http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/) might be something with which you’re already familiar, but they have a members list from which you might spot some local people you could contact.

I’ll be in touch to talk more.

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