Friday, 26 October 2018

My PhD motivation...

Hello all,

Meniere's Disease

I have not blogged in a while. Been busy trying to resolve additional health issues 
which has now been diagnosed as acute Migraine in addition to the Meniere's disease. I have finally got to grips with new medication and ready to fight again. It is frustrating to be stopped in your tracks by such an unpredictable monster but you have to roll with it. 

PhD Study

I am really excited to start my PhD in Computer Science. It has been a labour of love for so long. I graduated from my MSc in Information and Technology last year. This has been a long term goal of mine. 

I have always had a keen interest in politics, social justice and equality. I believe education is a basic human right and should be provided by the state, free at the point of use, for individual and societal development and growth, not just economic growth. It certainly should not be subject or held hostage by GDP growth.

Sadly, the pursuit of a neo-liberal agenda has resulted in a shrinking of the state in England. The UK Government, from 2010, used the 2008 financial crisis as an excuse to implement an ideologically driven austerity programme. This included reducing spending on education and opening the education public sector to further competition, including a programme of privately financed academies and free schools. These policies were sold on the basis they were providing greater parental choice, although admission policies were restrictive in some cases as these new schools could set their own policies.  This was alongside an agenda of fixing a "broken society", placing blame on schools and home life for increasing crime, unemployment of young people and low skilled workforce. Again, education was being used as a political football to the detriment of another generation.

Draconian disciplinary policies, over testing and shrinking budgets have led to the choice of subject study diminishing. This is even more apparent in Computing/ ICT/ Computer Science.

My interest in Computing in schools stems back to when I was fifteen years old. I have always been fascinated with NASA and space travel. So, when computers were introduced to our school, I was devastated when I was told, I was not smart enough to study computing. Back then, it was solely programming. I was also told I was too smart to sit GCE RSA Typing, both skills I came to need in my job as an Insurance Broker!

After my twenty-year career in Insurance Broking, including, ironically, being project manager for the computerisation of an entire insurance brokerage, I studied an undergraduate degree in Business Information Systems. In 2011, I graduated with a first-class honours degree and winner of the McGraw Hill award for best results on a computing course.

During my study at university, my eldest son was at High School. At home, he had enjoyed working on html coding with me but absolutely hated ICT at school. Upon investigation, his ICT project was simply copying and pasting a magazine into Adobe Fireworks and adding comments to the text. Hardly inspiring! I started to investigate ICT in schools and discovered, particularly in my son's case, ICT was being delivered by a Design teacher who had no experience or qualifications in computing or ICT.

The UK Government in 2014 acknowledged ICT and Computing in schools was a mess. Their announcement for change looked promising but the agenda was not to provide young people with an inspiring subject. It was to further pursue a free market agenda, with a back drop of austerity measures. It was frustrating and infuriating to see another wasted opportunity to improve the skills and potential of our young people. Again, education had been hijacked for ideological reasons. Schools were being forced to offer new curricula without any investment in infrastructure, hardware, software and suitably trained staff, all within shrinking budgets and pressure to improve performance in core, traditional subjects.

The austerity measures resulted in some schools providing a skeleton, narrow curricula based upon absolute minimum required to maintain performance level indicators. Computing/Computer Science learning is now sporadic across the country. ICT has been phased out resulting in a huge cohort of students leaving school with limited or no computing skills.

In 2017, I studied a MSc in Information and Technology. My dissertation investigated, "Can Computer Science in secondary schools benefit from agile governance and agile delivery of a modular based curricula?"

Some of the key skills, Michael Gove highlighted as reasons to change the curricula, such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and collaboration, directly contradict their overall education policy of strict discipline, uniformity and test-based learning.

Problems I have identified during my MSc study and since then, speaking to teachers in various schools, located in various counties across England, include:

1.    Teachers are demoralised and frustrated

2.    Teachers with no experience or related qualifications are being expected to deliver the new curricula.

3.    Some schools do not have the financial capacity to offer Computer Science

4.    Some schools feel their cohorts do not have the capacity to learn and pass the examinations.

5.    The pass threshold of the new GCSE is 35%, some teachers claim this is so low to ensure a pass but does not provide the standards required by industry.

6.    Monitoring and performance exclude/stifles creativity.

7.    Lack of interest from students and schools not actively selling the subject.

8.    Prevention of free thinking

9.    Lack of training for staff and the increasing workloads, mean a reluctance to attend training.

10.  Conflicting messages given to student around the use of their own technology.

11.  Decentralised education has resulted in sporadic teaching… academics, free schools and public schools do not have to follow the national curriculum.

12.  Some staff are hostile to the changes as they discriminate against a proportion of the students, in particular, SEND.

13.  The changes and how they have been implemented, have not solved issues, they have created more.

14.  Heavily weighted towards programming has resulted in little consideration given to design and other skills required.

15.  Private sector material is costly and school budgets cannot meet the costs.

16.  No regulation of private sector material

Economic and political policy has driven education policy for too many years. It has led to an inequality in provision and left generations falling behind in terms of career prospects. Computing has been addressed and successfully applied in primary schools and universities, but secondary schools have seen a half-hearted attempt to resolve the issues. Provision is disjointed, and the changes are incapable of being delivered effectively within traditional methods and pedagogy.

I believe a whole new approach is long overdue, especially at the crucial stage of examinations. Our young people and future generations deserve much better. I am on a mission to:

1.    Give Computing/ Computer Science parity of esteem with Mathematics and English

2.    To make the subject accessible to all

3.    To provide a new pedagogy to ensure the full potential of this subject is achieved.

Our little family...

has extended... we now have Bobby, a Portuguese Water Dog. He has completed our little family and I have bored by social media friends to death with pictures and videos... why should you escape it.

Just look at that face...

Beyond the Past and Beyond the Lies

Both books can be purchased through the website and are available in paperback or Kindle. 

Short but sweet. I have lots of work to do and a puppy to train. Have a wonderful and safe weekend... follow your dreams