Duel-spec teachers

There’s a thing in Warcraft that makes sense to players. It’s called being duel-spec. This means your character can be set up to do two things, depending on the game-play. It’s handy for players who want to do more than one thing.

This is a fishing post, but it seems that in the last decade, education has been pushing for teachers to be duel-spec. Their subject/specialism and technology. The pot of money available has been used to try and get everyone duel-spec. Actually, that’s not quite true. The burden of duel-spec has was originally given to computer teachers to run the network and librarians to deal with online information. That is no longer tenable, so the pressure is on for all teachers to be technological sword fighters as well as everything else they do. It clearly hasn’t worked for plenty of reasons – and well researched.

Why not have a teacher in a school who teaches kids digital citizenship and information literacy, who works as a teacher, with a curriculum both virtual and actual?

The answer lies with the syllabus. Even the much awaited National Curriculum avoids making any direct statements, choosing to give the impression that “21st Century Skills” are tacit in the holistic approach to edumacation – it’ still calls it ICT.

Given the fact that this is a salary we might stop spending hundreds of thousands of conferences, paying fly-in speakers and endless meetings about what teachers should be doing. Teaching a subject is often taken up for a love of the subject. It’s perfectly understandable not to want to be duel-spec – as the Digital Citizenship, Technological Skills and Information Fluency is a discipline.

Rewind to 1999, an Australian national report was issued that said we we’re already falling behind.

Much evidence (National Research Council, 1999) confirms an urgent need to improve the level of public understanding of computer science as an academic and professional field. That is, to function in society, the average citizen in the 21st century must understand at least the principles of computer science. A broad commitment to K–12 computer science education not only will create such broad public understanding but also will help to address the worldwide shortage of computer specialists.

I wasn’t adopted, and in all truth, the computer science classroom has been in decline for a long time now, both in terms of investment, innovation and attracting students in electives.

The suggested that to enter the workforce, all students needed to be able to:

1. Understand the essential facts, concepts, principles, and theories relating to computer science and software applications.
2. Use this understanding to design computer-based systems and make effective tradeoffs among design choices.
3. Identify and analyze requirements for computational problems and design effective specifications.
4. Implement (program) computer-based systems.
5. Test and evaluate the extent to which a system fulfills its requirements.
6. Use appropriate theory, practice, and tools for system specification, design, implementation, and evaluation.
7. Understand the social, professional, and ethical issues involved in the use of computer technology.
8. Apply the principles of effective information management and retrieval to text, image, sound, and video information.
9. Apply the principles of human-computer interaction to the design of user interfaces, Web pages, and multimedia systems.
10. Identify risks or safety aspects that may be involved in the operation of computing equipment within a
given context.
11. Operate computing equipment and software systems effectively.
12. Make effective verbal and written presentations to a range of audiences.
13. Be able to work effectively as a member of a team.
14. Understand and explain the quantitative dimensions of a problem.
15. Manage one’s own time and develop effective organizational skills.
16. Keep abreast of current developments and continue with long-term professional growth.

Now this is repeated endlessly isn’t it. The same things said in a thousand ways. But back in 1999, they also put out a model.

1. The curriculum should prepare students to understand the nature of computer science and its place in the modern world.
2. Students should understand that computer science interleaves principles and skills.
3. Students should be able to use computer science skills (especially algorithmic thinking) in their problem-solving activities in other subjects. One simple example is the use of logic for understanding the semantics of English in a language arts class. There are many others.
4. The computer science curriculum should complement IT and AP computer science curricula in any schools where they are currently offered.

So before anyone spends another $10,000.00 on someone to tell you this, we might firstly simply read the research at the inception. The roadmap has been there for over a decade, the price of technology has fallen and teachers spend vast amounts of time trying to duel-spec and pander to the political demands for data driven, standardised tests (which still avoid technology).

I don’t run a school. But if I did – there would be a full time staff member teaching this K12, reacting to the various levels of emergence that young people adopt as they develop. That would mean the pressure would be off ‘duel-spec’ and the kids would be well able to make their own sound choices as to the mode of study and how they present work. All for less than the price of one conference – and with the bonus of actually having a relevant, measurable curriculum.