Historically in the UK it was tagged on as an additional subject, computer studies, pitched way too high for our students. I always describe this in the following way. I had worked unsuccessfully as a computer programmer/analyst for a year and a half after leaving university, and in my first year of teaching just over two years later there were some things on the CSE syllabus I had never known. How ludicrous!
As computers have moved into the workplace replacing everything except politics, what has happened to the school curriculum. Schools offer computers studies at GCSE and some at A level, and in keeping pace with university requirements universities offering IT degrees do not require any input from schools. GCSE or A level computing is not a help to getting on these courses.
Many students have computers at home and use them for presentation of coursework etc., and this of course helps but this cannot be a universal policy for schools as they cannot afford to provide the facilities for all students to use computers as they would like. It has long been recognised that every school desk should have a computer, but this of course cannot be funded. It also cannot be funded when a significant number of the charges, clients or fundamentally vandals are prepared to dash over a desk in a school in a fit of temper.
20 years ago when teachers started to recognise how education could be improved by using computers, what did the powers that be do - they claimed that in a classroom only two or three computers were necessary and with good teacher management computers could be brought into the classroom. Once this was suggested a number of careerists promoted this option this fulfilling their ambition of moving up the ladder and getting out of the classroom. Others less career-oriented recognised that there was no way computers would be properly introduced, and attempted to compensate but it never worked.
Nor could it ever work when a high proportion of students are not going to school to study, and of that high proportion a significant number accept vandalism as a lifestyle. As usual education policy here is defined by the ill-disciplined. Rather than finding alternative strategies for dealing with the yobbish classroom financially-driven directives placed some computers in the classroom and increased the burden of the teachers by insisting that they monitor the computers. Nothing of significance was gained educationally, and we now have a computer age with IT bolted onto the curriculum. As a consequence the majority of students leave school, move into a computer-driven society, and are ill-equipped except for the games skills they learnt at home.
Understandable Lack of Teaching Skills
The problem is further exacerbated by the lack of teaching skills. I am not a teacher-basher, I am perfectly happy to say that in running several maths departments my best teachers were generally British. There are a number of reasons supporting this:-
UK teacher-training is good, mainly because the teachers learnt in a British classroom.
British textbooks are not interactive with the teacher. I draw a comparison here between UK and US texts. US texts are fully comprehensive and excellent. I surmise that to compensate for the appalling ill-discipline in US schools they spent their money on these quality resources. With such resources the teacher's interaction in lesson design was minimalised thus generally lessening their skill level. Whilst some would take advantage of such resources and take advantage of the preparation time available, others would not as sufficient of the educational objectives were covered by the resources. British texts are not so comprehensive and require input from the teachers in lesson design and delivery. British students are only marginally better than US students - the difference probably being access to the gun; but, because British teachers need to interact with their lesson design, this improves the quality of their teaching. However no amount of improvement in resources and teacher quality can compensate for the lack of motivation that students bring to school with them.
The exploitation of British workers has reached such a high level that many British teachers accept working 80 hours and being paid for 40.
And finally but most importantly teachers in the appalling cauldrons of western classrooms develop such quality motivational skills that their abilities as teachers rise phenomenally.
Classroom disruption is now common-place in the majority of western education institutions. Outside the US the authorities have prevailed on the abilities of the teachers to control this problem, with UK kids being the worst behaved outside the US this makes them the better teachers. In the US they have focussed a great deal on resources lessening the motivational abilities of their own teachers. As a result I am able to make such a statement about British teachers, and I would dream of attempting to draw any distinction between British teachers and their western colleagues if it weren't for the fact that on a daily basis the British media through biased journalism and inappropriate television fiction have responded to the political drive to undermine the trust between parents and teachers in state education to further their privatisation interests.
Token Staff Development
I started this aside on the competence of British teachers because I am about to add criticism of their skills. Their teaching is not computer-integrated. But, let's be honest how can it be? Even if teachers are trained to integrate computers into their teaching it rarely happens because of a number of issues - primarily time but also the resource. The interactive white board is an example of modern computer technology that I know could have greatly enhanced my teaching. Throughout my education life I was involved with developing teachers and resources, and throughout “experts” would come and show us how we could improve our classrooms. But it only partially happened because teachers were never given the time or resources to develop the work in the classroom once the "experts" had left.
I understand this but it is unacceptable. One of the prime motivations for moving up the career ladder was to escape the classroom. It is one of the perversities of education institutions that as people became more competent as teachers they moved out of the classroom. Of course they took on these needed additional duties based on their experience, but the consequence was that increased experience meant less contact time. Of course they accepted this because the students' behaviour was so appalling. Staff development was also a significant vehicle to escape the classroom. In the 80s as Thatcher's government politicised education careerists watched as new initiatives emerged from Whitehall. They then pounced on the circulars and very soon myriads of staff development experts emerged to tell teachers what the government wanted. And what was the reward for such traitorous acts - a job outside the classroom. What was the consequence inside the classroom - minimal, as teachers didn't have the time nor energy to implement these directives because they were too busy with dealing with the consequences of the slow disintegration of western society - the appalling behaviour of its students.
Some teachers would know of modern technology and want to use it. All teachers would say in interview how they would integrate it into their classroom but education has not advanced to incorporate such changes so IT becomes essential lip-service for promotion or job transfer but not an actual requirement in the classroom because most schools are not equipped either for finance or discipline reasons.
How many bosses have people had who they know are the pits? We have all had them. Does that mean we swear at the boss? So why do we let students do it? If you did swear at the boss, you would be sacked. What happens to the students? Parents make excuses for them and blame the teachers. What happens in the army if we were to swear at those pillars of morality - the sergeants? Society supports the principle of enforcing subservience to the boss yet with our children we allow them to treat the teachers badly. When they start work they don't swear at the boss but at school they swear at the teacher. This is a consequence of the politically-induced erosion of trust between teachers and parents together with increased legislation that removes teachers' powers to such an extent that many fear of attack.
Is it any wonder that students behave appallingly in schools?
In one school I worked in, many students had an allowance to attend schools as sixth formers. If they didn't attend lessons they didn't get the allowance. You don't say to the boss, you have to pay the employee because they turn up for work. No. If the boss is not satisfied they don't get paid. Many of these sixth-formers did not do homework, talked too much on lessons, and generally did not do enough to pass. Yet they attended to get their allowance, what an extraordinary waste of an opportunity to improve education!
When you have a boss, you learn what is required. You don't change him or her, you can't. If you appealed to some form of civil court for victimisation or bad treatment you might win but you would soon be out. I don't agree with the way it is but I have no choice. However when you are dealing with children who are too young to know better the law takes away control. This is a nonsense that teachers have known for years but are forced to cope with because many love their kids.
Containment not Education
At one stage I was on a local police committee, and the police had received complaints that truanting students were vandalising local traders and disrupting business. In the discussion the police were clearly angling for increasing powers to force the students back into the classroom. I simply asked what would happen to the good kids when the vandals were pushed back with them. Silence.
Schools perform a dual role, and roles which are incompatible. Schools are education establishments and containment facilities for young people. However school policies don't reflect this as schools are not given the powers to control these vandals. I can remember at one stage in my career that these vandals were much more scared of me if they saw me on the street than they ever were in the classroom or around the school. Good students never had reason to fear but vandals knew that I was restricted from any form of natural justice if they verbally abused me. On the street if they made the first move I had the natural human right to defend myself, it never needed to happen and even vandals showed appropriate courtesy to an adult.
Moving back from the discipline aside into consideration of computer technology in the classroom, the issue is controlled by the lack of finance and at the same time the disempowering of teachers. Both of these have to change before we can have a computer-integrated curriculum. I will make one last comment on behaviour connected to this issue. If we know they are vandals why are they still in the classrooms, why not put vandals in a sin bin? How much more education would occur for the other students if that happened? But then we have a whole echelon of apologists whose bleeding hearts go out to the vandals. I will work with any vandal who wants to try but my bleeding heart goes out to the good kids who want an education and are deprived of that education because of the vandals.